April 1998

John Bunch
John Bunch Solo: Arbors Piano Series At Mike's Place, Volume 1
Arbors Records

John Bunch has played with the big bands of Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich, as well as being Tony Bennett's pianist and musical director and a first-call musician for small combos. Here's a chance to hear him, not in a duo or trio, as a sideman or with big band, but totally alone with the 88. On 18 songs, he is alternately upbeat, bluesy, easily swinging, lively and tender.

At 76, this is only Bunch's second solo album in more than 40 years of playing, and what a prize it is. He's the master of modulation on Fats Waller's "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose." He also has a genius for the musical quote, inserting Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in Johnny Green's "Body and Soul." From "Sweet Lorraine" to "Sugar," from "Doxy" to "I've Got a Crush on You," Bunch is unfailingly confident and clever, delivering imaginative invention without jettisoning the melodies.

Originally published in April 1998

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