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Ruby Braff and Dick Hyman: Play Nice Tunes

Since the 1950s, when he began working with many of the established mainstream musicians in and around Boston and New York, Ruby Braff has remained a sometimes constant, sometimes shadowy figure on the jazz scene. His roots in Armstrong and Berigan served him well in his chosen company, but his rejection of bop made him seem an anachronism, an outsider, to most musicians and fans his age. This never seemed to bother him, though, for despite the intervening years he has remained true to his lifelong stylistic preferences by making music with younger men, like Scott Hamilton and Howard Alden, who themselves favor the more traditional approach. Although he has played in all manner of combos over the years, one of his favorite settings is the coronet/piano duo, a private chat-room he has shared many times with, notably, Ellis Larkin, Ralph Sutton, Roger Kellaway and Dick Hyman, his partner on this date.

Longtime friends and musical associates, Braff and Hyman did surpassingly well in their selection of “nice tunes,” or numbers that have both attractive melodies and chord progressions conducive to unrestrained improvisation. Every one of the 14 standards is a winner, from the seldom played “My Heart Belongs To Daddy.” “Joseph! Joseph!,” and Benny Carter’s “Once Upon A Time” to the many tunes associated with Louis, Duke, Pres and Billie. With his broad, warm tone and rich vibrato, Braff might require some acculturation on the part of younger listeners, but maintaining an open mind and a willingness to learn never hurt anyone.

Originally Published