I've had this boxed set for just a couple of weeks now, and I love every song. The sound quality is great throughout, Brown's bebop and hard bop sounds are superb as you'd expect, and the talent that appears along side Clifford Brown is outstanding.
I was a little apprehensive at first to get this set because I was concerned about too much overlap with my Emarcy albums. But it turns out the overlap is minor. This compilation does include the material you'd find on "Clifford Brown and Max Roach", and on "Brown and Roach, Inc.". But it does not contain songs from "Study in Brown", or any of Brown's work with Sonny Rollins or with strings, because they were yet within the 50-year copyright envelope when this set was compiled in 2005.
What you do get are three discs of Clifford's early work leading up to the Brown/Roach Quintet, and disc four, which includes studio and live recordings of the Brown/Roach Quintet.
Disc one contains Brown's work in the groups led by Lou Donaldson, Tad Dameron, and J.J. Johnson through June 1953. These songs show an already mature sound to Clifford Brown's playing. The sound quality is great, and I really like the blend of Brown's trumpet and Johnson's trombone.
Discs two and three focus on the fall of 1953 when Brown was touring through Europe as part of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. Apparently there was a bit of a riff between the old swing players in the Hampton band and the younger beboppers, which included Brown, alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce, drummer Alan Dawson, trumpeter Art Farmer, trumpeter/arranger Quincy Jones. The younger guys were frustrated at getting little to no soloing time during the performances. While in Paris, apparently the young guys would slip out of the hotel, get to a recording studio, and record songs they wanted to play along with some locals. Hampton was not at all happy about this practice.
The results are wonderful songs with that warm, joyous, energetic sound that Clifford Brown is known for. The songs that are arranged by Quincy Jones sound so beautiful and come off so well, it is hard to believe they were recorded on the sly. I was also very impressed with Gigi Gryce's sound on the alto and his arranging skill.
The end of disc three and disc four contain songs from the Brown/Roach quintet, starting with a live-radio performance, emceed by Max Roach, of the early quintet that included George Bledsoe on bass, Carl Perkins on piano, and Teddy Edwards on tenor. These guys were replaced by George Morrow, Richie Powell, and Harold Land, whom we hear on disc four doing their famous studio recordings for Emarcy, and a live performance. The live performances provide extended soloing time, and Parisian Thoroughfare is just magnificent, smoking fast in the intro and coda.