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Brian Bromberg: Wood II (2006)

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Brian Bromberg: Wood II How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

On whatever Brian Bromberg has done, he's proven himself a very gutsy bassist, not just a virtuoso who's too notable for mere technique. The opening "Caravan" on Wood II does indeed begin with the sort of neo-boogaloo that young guys used to get New Orleans brass bands going again a couple of decades back. The weight of the snare drum's just right to keep the swing going, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta has another good workout in the run into track two.

Overall Randy Waldman has a secondary role, though he does impress on a brisk "I'll Remember April." Bromberg's playing here generally doesn't give the pianist maximum opportunity to shine. That's just in the nature of the music: no excess of finesse—shrinking violets, stay away! A comparable bass-fronted ensemble was led on disc on recommendable occasions by the late great Dane Nils-Henning Oersted Pedersen, an extrovert who was so full of life and fun that I'm still reeling from his death last April. Bromberg's loud by comparison, less witty and lyrical, and good enough to be described as different, rather than graded above or below NHOP. Unbridled, he bends, twangs, slaps and skitters across the strings.

"I'll Remember April" is the one killer tempo item on this album. You've got to have one item per set "where everybody can go nuts"? So says Bromberg. Actually there are several, with artfully smudged notes resembling guitar downstrokes, and the pianist does have some fun.

The notes mistakenly name the three tenor saxophonists in Woody Herman's "four brothers" band as Al Cohn, Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, but one of them was Herbie Steward—an awesome player!—not Cohn. Bromberg whistles the theme, perhaps unaware that Ron McCroby was recorded whistling for longer with Herman, and without Bromberg's slippage of pitch.

Bob Haggart of course had a hit once, whistling and playing bass at the same time. Bromberg has here recorded the Sims, Getz, Steward and (baritone sax) Serge Chaloff parts in the four-saxophone out-choruses of "The Four Brothers" (arranged by Jimmy Giuffre) and dubbed them all together, the sound suggesting a super-ocarina. Different!

Bromberg practices a certain musical opportunism, choosing titles to perform because they have great lines in the bass. Two titles from the rock repertoire are taken solo, and a third adds dubs of two supporting bass parts taped earlier. Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" comes out better than Kansas's "Carry On[,] Wayward Son," but Paul McCartney's "Let 'em In" overstays its welcome.

Track Listing: Caravan; Bolivia; Blue Bossa; Witch Hunt; A Love Affair; Butterfly; Shining Star; I'll Remember April; Pensativa; Carry On Wayward Son; The Four Brothers; Let 'em In.

Personnel: Brian Bromberg: bass; Randy Waldman: piano; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums.

Record Label: Artistry Music

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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