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April 2007

Brian Bromberg
Downright Upright
Artistry Music

On both acoustic and electric bass, Bromberg has demonstrated prodigious facility on a series of impressive offerings over the past 20 years. He goes it strictly acoustic here in a program of accessible covers (Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” and “Chameleon,” Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” Les McCann/Eddie Harris’ “Cold Duck Time”) and engaging originals assisted by an all-star lineup of smooth-jazzers including saxophonists Kirk Whalum, Gary Meek and Boney James, trumpeter Rick Braun, guitarists Lee Ritenour and Gannin Arnold, and pianists Jeff Lorber and George Duke, all of whom stretch out more than you’d expect, with some surprising results. All-world drummer Vinnie Colaiuta does typically heroic duty in fueling the proceedings with crisp, supple backbeats.

Whalum’s tough Texas tenor fits perfectly into the fabric of Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” while Lorber cops an appropriately soulful vibe on “Cold Duck Time,” as tenor saxophonist Boney James and guitarist Ritenour double the earthy melody line. Whalum also testifies with his tenor on Bromberg’s gospel-flavored “Sunday Mornin’” while Meek delivers some urgent tenor work himself on “Chameleon” and Bromberg’s funky “Leisure Suit.” And Braun turns in some bold trumpet work alongside James’ tenor on Bromberg’s boogaloo-flavored closer, “Shag Carpet.”

While this was not intended as the kind of bass manifesto that Bromberg’s Wood and Wood II were, he takes his share of extended solos here, flashing mondo chops on several pieces, most stunningly on “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Cold Duck Time,” “The Hacha Chacha” and “Leisure Suit.”

Originally published in April 2007
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