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December 2000

Ruby Braff
The Cape Codfather

Pound for pound, Ruby Braff is the best cornetist on this planet. His ability to swing unabashedly in his chosen idiom (somewhere between traditional and straightahead) lends a feel-good flavor to this collection of mostly neglected gems. Braff's technical command allows him to execute any idea he conceives. And his frequent interpolations add an element of humor: You can almost hear him think, "I'm gonna make this phrase fit whether or not the changes justify the attempt."

The wit is infectious and often extends to the rest of the septet: Kenny Davern, clarinet; Tommy Newsom, tenor, Howard Alden, guitar; John Bunch, piano; Michael Moore, bass; and Kenny Washington, drums.

They provide many highlights: the tight voicings on the rarely heard intro to "My Melancholy Baby;" the curiously separate-but-equal versions of "Love Is Just Around the Corner;" the rhapsodic arco by Moore introducing Braff's Dukeish original, "Orange;" and the chorus of "If Dreams Come True," in which Braff and Davern turn the two two-note phrases of the title into a plaintive wail.

Braff may be an anomaly, but so what? His musicianship is what matters, and it sparks a first-rate session.

Originally published in December 2000
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