Clifford Brown and Max Roach - Study in Brown (1955), 7/10

Clifford Brown and Max Roach assembled quite the bebop record here, one that is exceptional for its consistent rhythmic drive and endearing romance of melody. Rather than becoming typically lost in melodic meanderings, the band keeps swaying and moving amongst the charming, warm interplay. While I traditionally find drum solos in jazz to be mildly infuriating, Max Roach has a unique talent for keeping them fresh and interesting, sometimes through complexity but more often through a true mastery of varied cadence. As quickly as the opener, he exhibits this ability to explore percussive improvisation while remaining natural and fresh, furthered in effectiveness by a compositional allowance for his energy to be infused into the story rather than relying on its drive for initiative advancement. Still, the principle comes into play eventually on a song like “Gerkin for Perkin” that suffers too greatly from Roach’s extended improvisation. The mellowed ballads are surprisingly just as, if not more, effective than the upbeat, energetic songs. The most unique among the list for its blending of these two energetic sensibilities as well as genre influences being “George’s Dilemma”, a highlight in both theme and achieved sound. Here the whole band contributes to the action, creating a supremely unique sound, particularly in this early stage of maturity in the genre. The pacing of the record is notably executed quite well, as the highlight is sandwiched between two similarly successful sides of the album, opening and closing with some of the more interesting ideas explored among the track list. Very clearly an essential fifties jazz record and even more broadly an essential record for understanding the progression of jazz as a genre.