Jimmy Bruno long ago established a reputation as one of the most outstanding straightahead jazz guitarists on the East Coast. His recordings over the past 15 years have always been eminently swinging and marked by enough virtuosic turns on the fretboard to leave six-string aficionados panting, in the tradition of his most obvious influence, Joe Pass. With Bruno, it’s all about context. The chops are never in question. It’s only a matter of how he applies them.
On Maplewood Avenue, a drum-less project recorded at his home studio in South Philly, the setting is intimate and chamber-like as Bruno plays it more relaxed than usual in the company of vibist Tony Miceli and bassist Jeff Pedras. Less aggressive than past bop-fueled outings, it’s the sound of a man who has nothing to prove and is content to bask in melody and groove.
From Bruno’s whimsical, easy swinging title track to Pedras’ mellow “Easton Street Bossa” to Miceli’s delicate and evocative waltz-time ballad “Song For Meg,” this trio strikes an engaging accord. They turn up the heat a couple of notches on Miceli’s uptempo burner “Jimmy’s House” as sparks fly. And Miceli’s “PA Turnpike” bristles with the kind of intricate unison lines that recall Red Norvo’s trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus. “Bach Sonata Trio” is an elegantly swinging interpretation of a J.S. Bach theme while Pedras’ earthy closer, “She’s A Fox,” gives the trio a chance to stretch on a lazy, midtempo blues. Highly enjoyable, highly recommended.