The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is a free jazz music festival held annually in June atRodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware, USA. The first festival was held in 1989 on theopen lawn in the center of the city, and has grown into the largest free jazz festival on the East Coast.
The event is held to keep alive the memory of Clifford Brown who died in a traffic accident in 1956 along with pianist Richie Powell. Pieces written by Brown and tribute pieces (like Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford”) are often played. Some acts have been staged at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, where a fee was charged.
Clifford Benjamin Brown, nicknamed Brownie, born October 30, 1930 in Wilmington, Delaware, was an American jazz trumpeter noted for lyricism, clarity of sound, and grace of technique. He was a principal figure in the hard-bop idiom.
Brown attended Delaware State College and Maryland State College and played in Philadelphia before joining, first, Tadd Dameron’s band in Atlantic City, New Jersey, then Lionel Hampton’s big band for a European tour, both in 1953. He then played with leading West Coast musicians and the Art Blakey quintet. In 1954 he and drummer Max Roach formed the Brown-Roach quintet, which quickly became one of the outstanding postwar jazz units.
From 1953, when Brown began recording frequently, his style was fully mature. Influenced by Fats Navarro, he developed an innate sense of solo form, a rich tone, and a virtuoso technique in all trumpet ranges. His style included brilliant high notes, high rhythmic detail, and a generous incorporation of grace notes and varied inflections, all of which he played with rare grace and ease. He was especially noted for the melodic qualities of his improvising, which often flowed in long phrases. Most of his recordings are of consistently high quality, at his best in the Brown-Roach At Basin Street and Sonny Rollins Plus Four albums (both 1956). The jazz standard “Joy Spring” (1954) is one of the best-known songs that he wrote. Brown was the most influential trumpeter of his generation; the lyrical aspects of his music influenced many trumpeters, including Lee Morgan and Booker Little, and his technical brilliance especially influenced trumpeters such as Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard.
Clifford Brown and Richie Powell, the Brown-Roach quintet’s pianist, and Richie’s wife, Nancy, died in an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on June 26, 1956. For more than three decades, the city of Wilmington pays tribute to the brilliant trumpet player and composer whose name and legacy are celebrated at the annual Clifford Brown Jazz Festival.