Resembling one of those cool bop collections Starbucks sells as a side dish to cappuccino and biscotti, Side Man: jazz Classics from the Broadway Play (RCA Victor 0902663444-2) epitomizes everything spurious about a show that epitomizes everything spurious about contemporary live drama. The centerpiece of both this new CD and the second act of Warren Leight's long-running play is Clifford Brown's version of "A Night in Tunisia," recorded at a Philadelphia jam session the night before his fatal 1956 turnpike collision. This electrifying performance wasn't commercially released until 1973, by which point tapes had been making the rounds for years. It's 1967 in the play, and one of Leight's terminally out-of-it white jazz musicians, a former member of Claude Thornhill's trumpet section now scuffling for society dance gigs, has come up with a dub that he can't wait to play for his buddies—fellow ex‐ Thornhillites on a job with the dreaded Lestin Lanin (and such fuck-ups that their idea of a good time is swapping yarns designed to illustrate what fuck-ups all musicians are). As Brown masterfully elongates a phrase from his first chorus into his second, one of Leight's sidemen lets out a "whew!," only to be told "wait!" by the sideman who's heard the tape before—meaning, it gets even better. Both reactions ring true: This is how such men would listen to music, and this is the monosyllabic way they would talk about it. Then, a few minutes into Brown's solo, one of these guys jumps up and yells "I quit!"—delight giving way to frustration:
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Publication information: Book title: Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young. Contributors: Francis Davis - Author. Publisher: Da Capo Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, MA. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 200.
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