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CD Review: Brian Bromberg “Compared To That”

“Virtuoso ensemble, ten piece horn section and full orchestra string section propel the eclectic mix of jazz”

They’ll never play this one in an elevator unless Otis invents one with swinging doors. Brian Bromberg hasn’t made an album in awhile now that swings so hard, swings so audaciously and quite so sweet. For this, his 20th solo collection, he has assembled a ten piece horn section that plays tight, play bright and struts it. The strings provide the canvas for Bromberg to paint on, but believe me, he doesn’t just color outside the lines, he gets some on the walls. It’s hard charging, straight ahead, flammable swing, but with a mix of hues, flavors and other delectable sensual pleasures from city-fied to southern fried and liberally sprinkled with funk and soulful balladry.

As you listen to this album, one thing becomes clear. Bromberg’s bass work is somewhere way north of marvelous. And, where did he find a guitar player that could keep up? Well, he didn’t. Everywhere you ‘think’ you’re hearing a guitar, that’s Bromberg playing a piccolo bass tuned to sound like a guitar. He plays both acoustic and electric basses and acoustic and steel string piccolo. It makes for great solo and melody translations.

To pull this swinging sensation off, it took a special group of musicians Alex Acuna, Gannin Arnold, Charlie Bisharat, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Duke, Bela Fleck, Mitch Forman, Larry Goldings, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Tom Zink among them, and they cut the album live in the studio over a two day period.

For the project, which is only the first offering from Bromberg this summer, he composed 8 new tunes. The two cover tunes are great, and diverse; Chicago’s “Does Anybody Ever Really Know What Time It Is” is the first radio release and is done here in a snappy, snazzy fashion. The other is Funk Master, Rick James’ signature tune, “Give It To Me Baby” which Bromberg turns into a driving and imaginative swing number with a great walking bass line underneath the melody of the piccolo bass. Nice treatment and Bromberg delivers a bass master class with this one and a good portion of the rest of the album.

A few of the other tunes are fun in multiple ways. There are tongue in cheek titles and musical humor throughout; “Rory Lowery, Private Eye”, “If Ray Brown Was A Cowboy”, “A Little New Old School”, and “I’m Just Sayin’” are just a few of the high points. But it is the sound and the delivery that make the album stand out. It’s a unique blend of what is essentially a live, acoustic jazz ensemble with pop album production.

On July 3, Bromberg will release two more projects which are artist inspired, and from the titles alone, build some anticipation. Bromberg Plays Hendrix and In The Spirit Of Jobim. Bromberg translating two giants of guitar in two diverse styles alone should make the listener set up and take notice. Bromberg’s ability to play music at a scholarly level and make it accessible to the casual jazz fan as well as appeal to the mainstream, simultaneously is unique, to state the obvious. And with these three releases promises to make it an interesting summer.

The Dirty Lowdown

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Robert Carraher