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Ruby Braff and His Buddies: Controlled Nonchalance, Vol. 2

Sixteen Ruby Braff Arbors CDs ago, we got the first volume of Controlled Nonchalance. That was in 1995. Now comes a second installment from the same gig at the Regattabar in Cambridge, Mass. It is tempting to say that this is one of Braff’s best recordings, but over the course of those many albums, covering the last decade of his life, he was at a uniformly high level. And so he is throughout this set, brimming with Louis Armstrong and Lester Young facets that he merged into one of the most recognizable–and one of the hippest–styles in all of jazz. Braff’s “Ain’t Misbehavin'” solo amounts to a distillation of that style. A great eclectic, in “Pennies From Heaven,” he manages to be boppish while evoking Armstrong.

Dave McKenna’s solo on “Pennies” reminds us of his bop period and of how much we’ve lost with the great pianist out of action. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, in great form throughout, has a beautifully shaped chorus on “Them There Eyes.” Guitarist Gray Sargent treats listeners by not just inserting, but blending, ingenious quotes into his solos. Bassist Marshall Wood and drummer Chuck Riggs are quiet but strong in support.

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