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Brian Bromberg: Wood

Bassist Brian Bromberg is blessed with that uncommon combination of superb technique, astounding versatility and heartfelt lyricism, and he brings his remarkable facility to bear on a pair of recent releases, Wood and Jaco.

On the straightahead recording Wood, Bromberg places the emphasis on the upright bass-specifically a rich-toned, 18th-century instrument built in Italy. His brother, drummer David Bromberg, and pianist Randy Waldman back him, and together they perform a collection of standards and one original in trio, duo and solo configurations. Waldman’s fingers glide across the keys on the trio’s upbeat take on Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” and they give Cole Porter’s “I Love You” a lively swing. Bromberg revisits his composition “Goodbye (For My Father),” a track from his 1997 album, You Know That Feeling; here it is a performed as a duet with Waldman, and together they create an eloquent, deeply touching elegy to Bromberg’s late father. On two of the solo performances, the Beatles’ “Come Together” and “Star-Spangled Banner,” Bromberg combines tapping technique with unusual approaches to the melody to produce unique readings of two well-known songs.

Wood is a prime example example of Bromberg’s extraordinary virtuosity.

On Jaco, Bromberg honors the memory of Jaco Pastorius with a tribute album featuring several compositions closely associated with the late bass legend. Rather than simply recreating Pastorius’ brilliant original performances, Bromberg uses his inventive talents and his arsenal of fretted, fretless, acoustic and electric basses to create innovative interpretations of the material.

Opening the CD with the funky explosion “Come On, Come Over,” Bromberg gallops along on five-string bass while singers Bill Champlain and Bobby Kimball alternate gritty, soul-soaked lead vocals. The album includes a second version of the track, this time performed as an instrumental, with saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who also plays on the vocal version, blowing the melody with abandon. Bromberg and saxophonist Bob Mintzer share the melody on a gentle reading of the Weather Report classic “A Remark You Made,” and Bromberg turns in a rapid-fire acoustic bass solo on the funky tune “The Chicken.” Instead of performing the lyrical ballad “Portrait of Tracy” solo on electric bass as Pastorius did, Bromberg plays it on acoustic bass and embellishes his version with strings and percussion to give the track a lush, cinematic quality.

Bromberg does a fine job of taking the music of an icon, with one of the most immediately identifiable sounds in jazz, and making it his own.

Originally Published