How’s this for a back story: After suffering a career-halting spine injury, bassist Brian Bromberg has released Full Circle, his first CD in four years and the only one to feature him collaborating, via some cleverly reconfigured and refurbished acetates, with his late father, drummer Howard Bromberg. Indeed, the album’s opening and closing tracks are dusted-off, Dixieland-flavored family affairs-sentimental journeys, yes, but delightfully revitalized ones.
On the remaining tracks, though his gift for melody is frequently on display, Bromberg doesn’t always sound quite like himself. He often plays an acoustic piccolo bass pitched in the guitar register-an instrument which, in Bromberg’s hands, sometimes fluidly evokes the likes of Stanley Jordan and George Benson. Like those artists, Bromberg aims to please listeners open to both smooth and mainstream influences. Triggering shifts from intimate trio performances to expansive takes on Afro-Cuban jazz and New Orleans funk, his writing helps keep things interesting, and the same goes for the Michael Jackson cover (“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”), which sounds as if it were designed to make Benson’s day.
Full Circle consistently hits its target, especially when the arrangements are tailored to accommodate several guests, including trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and percussionist Alex Acuña on the festively orchestrated “Havana Nights” (a.k.a. “Havana Nagila”), and saxophonist Bob Sheppard and pianist Mitchel Forman on the album’s title track. Full Circle also marks another first for Bromberg, as it finds him occasionally doubling on bass and drums, the latter a reminder of his well-spent youth in Arizona.