Dave Braham: Blue Gardenia
Braham starts off with a juicy vamp; stacatto bleeps from Eric Johnson tell us we’re hearing “Love for Sale”. Simpkins starts the theme, with a deadly growl on the opening phrase. Drums pound hard; the conga gives it depth. Braham is mellow on the bridges and trebly on his solo – a touch of Jimmy McGriff, but he doesn’t really “sound” like anybody. Simpkins is a light-toned shouter of the old school; his solo goes up in the soprano range. Each does his bit – the band is the star here.
Groove Holmes’ “Living Soul” gets a ton of two-finger trills from Braham; his pedal work is the best. Simpkins really goes to town: staying in mid-range, he surges and squawks and takes no prisoners. Johnson’s turn has a little single-string blues and a lot of the barroom feeling. Cecil Brooks III shows us something rare – a tuneful drum solo. As Braham pedals behind, Brooks’ toms rebound from speaker to speaker, the snares are sharp, and the cymbals something special. Get the barbecue sauce; this one smokes!
The tones get round and warm for a classy “Blue Gardenia”. Johnson’s comping is simple but effective; his solo muses with delightful little phrases. Braham gets lush like Holmes on his solo, then back to the gentle sound. This is a tender kiss, and one to remember.
“Minor Inconvenience” is an attractive blues; Braham states the theme, then sits back as his mates take the spotlight. Simpkins is soft but tough, with that gentle force I love in a tenor. Johnson is especially good: he bobs and he weaves, full of thought and full of fire. Braham has a tender bit, suddenly explodes in a great wave of sound, and in a blink he is sedate. Minor Inconvenience? Major pleasure!
Half the tracks drop conga and change guitars. Bob Devos is similar to Johnson, with his sound a little more “metallic”. Simpkins is absent on many of these, and his presence is missed. Devos’ warm ring helps the samba “If You Never Come to Me”; Braham’s solo is a gem. Simpkins returns on “Don’t Get Around Much”; his swagger is delightful and his turn is too short. Where he was hot, Devos is cool: gentle rolling lines with deep notes and full tones. Braham rolls like Jack McDuff; Devos gets bluesy behind him. “If I Should Lose You” is another trio, a little faster than the others. This is Devos’ spot; his long lines and crystal tone make it a joy. Braham is soft, and I think he quotes “The Happy Organ”! “Time After Time” is a slow trio that creeps up on you: when Braham goes double-time in mid-stream, his rhythmic part is infectious. And for this, there IS a cure: I prescribe this album, taken in regular doses.
Record Label: Blue Jay Records