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John Leitham/Jimmy Bruno: Two for the Road

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A gathering of old friends, this recording features acoustic bassist John Leitham and guitarist Jimmy Bruno who first met in Philly and later worked together in L.A. with the late great studio guitarist Tommy Tedesco, whose son, Damon, happens to have engineered this project. From the opener, Charles Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square,” Leitham does a stellar job of anchoring things with his full, resonant tone and ability to sculpt nice lines that are no doubt gained from years of experience working with Mel Torme, Pete Jolly, Pete Rugulo and others. Yet it’s through his solos on tunes like Bernard Peiffer’s gorgeous waltz “Manege” and his own quirky “The Left-Handed Blues” that you begin to understand he’s on a unique level that enables him to effortlessly improvise with imagination, incredible skill and even a bit of humor.

At the same time, Bruno unleashes his characteristic deep chops on tunes like the blistering “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “Ornithology” and “Bernie’s Tune.” But don’t get the idea that this is just another clash of the titans. These guys are here to make music, which is exactly what they do by fully exploring the conversational possibilities that such a streamlined ensemble format affords. Skeptics can check out the innumerable bright moments that run throughout the program but are especially evident on “Manege,” “The Left-Handed Blues,” and “Isn’t It Romantic.”

What’s the bottom line? Bass/guitar duos don’t get any better than this.