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Brian Bromberg: Compared To That

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Since the ’80s, journeyman bassist Brian Bromberg has carved a niche for himself by creatively using pop repertory, and in the summer he continued that tradition with the release of three eclectic albums. On Compared to That , the hard-swinging record of the bunch, he draws from the likes of Chicago and Rick James; on Bromberg Plays Hendrix , he recasts the psychedelic rocker as a bass virtuoso; and on In the Spirit of Jobim , he delves into the bossa-nova canon with his masterful technique and the signature twang of his 300-year-old upright. On all three, Bromberg combines the thrill of a live recording with top-notch studio production. Along the way, friends like Béla Fleck, Randy Brecker, George Duke, Larry Goldings and Vinnie Colaiuta turn up to help out.

Bromberg references Les McCann on the title track of Compared to That , with a driving drum part that recalls “Compared to What” and features Bromberg cutting over the horn section on piccolo bass. The uptempo, straight-ahead “Rory Lowery, Private Eye” allows tenor saxophonist Gary Meek to show off his chops, followed by an effortless acoustic bass solo by Bromberg, who isn’t afraid to play in double time when the pace is already bright. “Hayride” is a highlight of the album, a Nashville-tinged romp backed by the Tokyo-based Rising Sun Orchestra and featuring Fleck’s effervescent banjo. The breezy cover of Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” is the album’s first radio single, and it sounds like it. On closer “Give It to Me Baby,” Bromberg dips into the songbook of another bassist who liked to play fast and loose, Rick James.

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