Live at Birdland album review @ All About Jazz

Jimmy Bruno: Live at Birdland

Most jazz guitarists know Jimmy Bruno’s playing and a few have been lucky enough to see him live. Those who haven’t now have a chance with this, his first live recording for Concord.

The CD opens with f8, a tune by Jimmy. The name comes from his hobby: photography. It’s a pure swinger with a driving backbeat in the A sections. Jimmy’s solo starts out in a relatively safe zone, but he turns up the heat over the descending II-V patterns in the bridge. Here we hear all the trademark Bruno-isms: blistering double-time licks, chordal passages and tremolos. This is a great opener for the set.

Denzil Best’s Move is Jimmy’s tribute to Hank Garland and it’s done as only Jimmy can do – with energy to spare. It’s in tunes like this that the listener can appreciate Jimmy’s astounding technique. The flow of ideas in his playing are unhampered by the blistering tempo. In fact I think he is more inspired when the going gets tough. The a cappella section near the end is especially fun to listen to.

Next up is Groove Yard, a tune known to fans of early Wes Montgomery. The opening vamp seems influenced by the Montgomery Brothers version but once the head kicks in, the trio adds a modern spice the groove. Jimmy’s solo, octaves and chordal passages, is a clear nod to the man from Indianapolis. There are some tasty modal licks in his solo as well. Great transcribing material. Thomas contributes a lyrical bass solo in this tune.

Valse Hot, the one waltz on the disc, is played with sensitivity and restraint, indicating the stylistic maturity of the performers. Things heat up a little during Jimmy’s solo but remain under total control at all times. This is a great example of how to swing in 3.

The Charlie Parker tune Segment (a favorite of mine) introduces Bobby Watson, a tremendous bebop alto player. The joint guitar/sax melody is a joy to hear. Watson’s solo is part Bird, part Paul Desmond and completely musical. Jimmy’s solo has a hint of Wes at the top and morphs into a hard swinging statement.

Continuing the Parker motif, Au Privave gives the band a chance to blow over the Blues. The tempo is picked up significantly here and the boys let loose. Jimmy’s solo opens things up, playing with outside harmonies and coming back in at the right moments. Watson begins his solo by picking up Jimmy’s closing lick and expanding upon it. The duo begin to play off of each other, picking up the excitement. The bands seamlessly goes back in the the head to take it out.

These Foolish Things, a lovely ballad, gives us a chance to hear Jimmy and Bobby as a duo. This is the best time to listen to Jimmy’s 7 string voicing and comping ideas. Watson’s immaculate playing on this tune lies somewhere between Johnny Hodges and Sonny Stitt. Jimmy’s a capella solo is a grea opportunity to hear him at his best.

The other original tune on the disc, For J.T., was contributed by Thomas. A Latin-influenced composition, it allows the players to experiment with more modern harmonies. Watson’s solo is at times mournful, at times light and playful. Jimmy’s fluid comping adds an ethereal atmosphere to the tune, and his solo is direct and unflinching.

The Parker/Gillespie anthem Anthropology is easily the «barn burner» of this set. Not an easy head to play under any circumstances, the band roars through it at near warp speed. Jimmy solos first, with Bobby offering some riffs in the background. Jimmy is at his blazing best over these «I Got Rhythm» chord changes. This is the kind of playing that put him on the map. Bobby’s alto solo is reminiscent of Cannonball Adderley’s fluid playing.

The disc closes with My One And Only Love, a tune with a strikingly beautiful melody. Jimmy’s solo intro of the tune sets the perfect mood. The band picks up at the bridge and plays with utmost taste and sensitivity. This is a great choice for a closer, ending the set on a peaceful note.

The playing herein is not without mistakes, but that is to be expected in a live recording.

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