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Jimmy Bruno Trio: Live at Birdland

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Guitarist Bruno’s drive and eclecticism are caught in a live recording at the New York club with the same name as the Birdland of legend. Bruno is hot in the up-tempo pieces, particularly so on “Move,” at times recalling Jimmy Raney’s and Tal Farlow’s bop styles, as he does Wes Montgomery’s octaves on “Groove Yard” and Jim Hall’s chords on “Valse Hot.” But he has plenty of his own stuff to recommend him, including ingenious approaches to self-accompaniment that require a brain in each hand.

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson is the guest on six of the 11 pieces. Watson’s swing is generally admirable, his joyfulness infectious. He has wonderful solos on the ballads “My One and Only Love” and “These Foolish Things,” with lovely floating codas on both. His passion matches Bruno’s on bassist Craig Thomas’ mysterious “For J.T.” Watson’s and Bruno’s enjoyment in playing together comes through in their unison work and interaction, but Watson’s time on the fast tracks is a bit raggedy in places and his execution mechanical in others. Granted, the tempo of “Anthropology” is enough to make nearly any horn player resort to automatic pilot (and possibly prayer), but by the end of the track the listener may wish that there were a bit more Bruno and a bit less Watson.

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