Jade Hairpins sneaked onto the scene in late 2018 with a mysterious 12-inch on Merge Records and a couple of poetic sentences about hiding in trees. The label remained tight-lipped while touting Dose Your Dreams, a truly epic new Fucked Up album released on the same day.
Fast forward to 2020, when Fucked Up drummer Jonah Falco and songwriter/guitarist Mike Haliechuk burst out of the proverbial trees with Harmony Avenue, a collection of songs written and recorded in real time. Pop foraging with analog acoustics and electronic landscaping.
We recently reviewed Jade Hairpins new album (here) and we’re lucky to have Jonah Falco of the band write for us in the latest Why I Love column about the music of Clifford Brown.
This may seem an unlikely choice for a pop group that has next to nothing to do with Jazz or brass instrumentation but upon reflecting so greatly on what I loved most about the music of my heroes – whether it was style, innovation, personality, ingenuity, or execution – there was not a singular artist who ticked more boxes than jazz trumpet legend Clifford Brown.
From my discovery of Clifford as a young teenager still developing my sonic worldview, right up until this exact moment in ones creative life of musical code-switching and genre blurring, the maddeningly brief output but infinite legacy of Clifford Brown has been a constant inspiration, an idol, and an ideal.
My first encounter with his music was the song “The Blues Walk” from the LP “Clifford Brown and Max Roach.” It’s histrionic mass of full acceleration and free flowing joy over the most common and constantly re-used and repurposed set of chord changes, the blues, was an instant shock. I started to laugh uncontrollably and inexplicably while the total speed and blaring volume upped the stakes as every second went past.
The deeper I dove into Brown’s life’s work, the more impressed I became. The more I learned and listened, an even more profound image began to resolve. A player who could be as minimally expressive as he could black out a page of manuscript paper with clusters of notes. A musician who never had the chance to evolve this most promising gift of expression, but left in its place something perfectly open to understanding and emulation.
By all accounts he was a kind and modest, studious and eager musician, just barely having a chance to break the soil of his career before his life was tragically cut short by a drunk driver. The tone he could produce with his horn is unmistakable to me – an airy reservation that softens the edges and eliminates any ego from his playing. Validation of that ego could, however, easily be cemented by the unrelenting ability of his improvising – a moment of focused composition exactly at the moment of its permanence. These moments could create a crystal clear image of where you were in a song by building magically rollicking melodic negative space. Like a sonic echolocation.
“Composition at the exact moment of permanence” (which is exactly the kind of overwriting I love to inflict on people) is part of the way I’ve ended up making music for better or for worse. Playing in the studio with ideas and structure in real time rather than creating something immovable and trying to recreate it. Even in pop/rock performance, Jade Hairpins make an effort to adapt and reproduce the conditions of a songs creation (despite having to play with pre programmed electronic tracks) in order to keep that energy, all the while trying keeping ourselves exactly in the solid code of rock and roll and pop music. I cling greatly to the elemental influence of a player like Clifford.
Aside from the many talents of Clifford Brown, he dressed immaculately and radiated freeing expression and honesty. He kept some of the best musical company of his day, and has put an unfathomable amount of positivity into my life as a musician. Like the name of one of his most famous songs, Brown’s impact remains a “Joy Spring.”