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Jimmy Bruno: From Surgery and Carjackings to His Guitar Institute

By Published: December 26, 2007
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The New CD

AAJ: Now you have a new CD out, but before that you were with Concord. What happened to the association with Concord Records?

JB: Concord kept getting bigger and bigger, they felt the need to get higher profile artists. I think they had some stuff with Barry Manilow, Ray Charles, somewhat jazz-oriented. Concord will always put out quality music. The two people that run it—John Burk and Glen Barros—love music; they are not suits that count numbers. Unfortunately, with the company growing, you have to answer to a bunch of people with suits, I imagine.

I was planning the Jimmy Bruno solo record, and then I was talking to Bill Bay at one of the conventions somewhere and he said he wanted to start a label. I had already recorded the solo CD. He was starting the label and had money for the ads. I felt Concord is going to do what they are going to do. I know that they were not going to concentrate on spending a ton of money on promoting this CD although they have always done well by me. If not for them, I would not be talking to Bill Bay.

Jimmy Bruno

I mentioned it to Concord and they said it could be a good thing for me. I am friends with the people at Concord and recorded with John Burke for fifteen years. He said, "You should jump on this because he is going to take out a plenty of ads," which he did. It was wonderful exposure for Bill Bay and me, so I did that for him, and I am sure I will record something for Concord again. Through this person David Butler, he said that the industry was moving toward the internet, so we did the Maplewood CD and we started our record label.

AAJ: You have a new management, Affiliated Artists and your new release is your thirteenth if I am correct.

JB: Yes, the thirteenth or fourteenth CD.

AAJ: The new CDMaplewood Avenue was recorded at your house and engineered by you?

JB: Yes and I mastered it, and did everything.

AAJ: Can you describe the creative process for the CD?

JB: Well, it started with bassist Jeff Pedraz and vibraphonist Tony Miceli. We were just going to get together to play, and I wanted to see if I could record. I did the solo CD, that was somewhat easy. Now I just wanted to see if I could record more than just me. It also was just a test, plus they like to play, it was a good chance for us to get together and play. We came to my house, set up all the gear, and just played the tunes, nothing special, just standards and other stuff.

We would record maybe once or twice a week. I would experiment with the mics and all the gear, mixing and mastering it and things like that. While we were doing this, Tony came by with an original tune, "PA Turnpike," that is a takeoff on the changes from "On Green Dolphin Street." We played with that for awhile; put it in a few keys during the solos. It is odd because, while we were learning the tune and Tony was explaining the tune, that when it came time to record it, I did not turn on any of the outboard gear. I did not do anything, just hit record.

When we listened to the playback, it just sounded terrific. I was thinking, "What did I do different?" I did not EQ, or do anything. When we recorded it, I put a little reverb on the guitar that was it. I thought, man, there is just something neat about this sound, it reminded of the old things recorded in the '60s and stuff like that. We found a way to record it by doing nothing; we just found the right mics. When I say nothing, I mean no processing and no EQ. I was mixing every night. Meanwhile, Jeff and Tony were at home writing tunes. By the time it was done, I only had time to write one tune, "Maplewood Avenue."

The CD was done before we knew it. I mixed it, and then I had to learn about mastering. Mastering the CD took several months and several tries until I could get it the way I wanted it to sound. I came back to the same idea, to do as little as possible. I wanted it to sound as if someone was sitting in the room as we recorded it. The last studio record I did was Midnight Blue (Concord, 2002); that was high tech and electronic. I wanted to do something completely the opposite this time and it just sounded so natural to us, that we decided to do very little to it.

AAJ: So how did the finished product compare to how you envisioned it during the recording process?

JB: Oh, it came out much better that I thought.

AAJ: On the CD, it is just you, vibes and a bass, how did you decide on that instrumentation?

JB: It was always in the back of my mind, I had always wanted to do a record like that at some point. It was not planned for this CD, but I did not have the mics for drums, and I knew that recording drums is a whole other thing to learn. Recording drums is a study in and of itself; especially if you have never done it before. I decided that maybe I would learn how to record drums later, and I did not have the proper mics for drums. That is how it turned into this; it was an accident. I always wanted to do this, Red Norvo came to mind, those types of records. The next CD will have drums.

AAJ: The CD contains all original compositions, was that deliberate or just the way it shook out?

JB: It was a conscious decision because I did not want to rework a bunch of standards, although there is plenty yet to be done with standards. No one has reached the end of what you can do with those tunes and there is nothing old-fashioned about them. I can pretty much turn on the radio and hear some great soloists doing something with changes that every jazz musician has heard and played a hundred times and there are still new ways to navigate the tunes. Having not done a record of all originals in a while, it seemed like a good idea and I am glad I did it. Additionally, we had the material; we had a ton of original tunes which we were writing and playing, and the newer tunes just sounded better.

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