Things Ain't What They Used to Be
Baritonist Nick Brignola's Things Ain't What They Used to Be: Last Set at Sweet Basil (Reservoir) comprises leftover tracks from 1992's Live at Sweet Basil, First Set. More so than on the first session, Brignola also plays alto and soprano here, and even on one track brings out his clarinet. No contemporary baritonist could control the unwieldy horn better than Brignola. He could execute the most technically demanding uptempo passages without a single misstep, all the while swinging like crazy. But he also exhibited consummate dynamic control of the instrument. Brignola could make the big horn roar and he could make it purr, and he displays both aspects on Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." On pianist Mike Holober's attractive "In So Many Words," he reveals a nice alto tone and an engaging ballad style derived from Charlie Parker's, while his soprano outing on his "Blues for Phyllis" reflects the inevitable influence of Coltrane. And he could pass for a full-time clarinetist on Tadd Dameron's "Tadd's Delight." In the admirable company of familiar bandmates-Holober, bassist Rich Syracuse and drummer Dick Berk-Nick Brignola turned out some superb music that night, and the delayed release of this final set is a welcome event.