13

Bruce Torff: Down the Line

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Chicago area native, Bruce Torff, leads his second outing on Summit Records, following up on Look Again (2013). Torff is, first and foremost, an academician with three Master Degrees and a PhD from Harvard. He is a professor at Hofstra University and a prolific author, as well an excellent keyboardist and composer. Torff's slim recorded musical history dates back to composing credits on his brother, bassist Brian Torff's Hitchhiker of Karoo (Self-Produced, 1985). He later recorded as part of guitarist John Stein's quartet on Hustle Up! (Knitting Factory, 1995). The common thread in Torff's previous work had been straight-ahead, mainstream jazz but on Down the Line he conveys a distinctive fusion component to the music.

Saxophonist Joel Frahm and guitarist Pete McCann return from Torff's original group. Frahm's more notable recordings include his duo outing with Brad Mehldau, Don't Explain (Palmetto Records, 2000), and Jane Monheit's In the Sun (Silverline, 2005) along with a half-dozen leader releases. McCann has lead his own groups since the late 1990s and is known for his diverse range that covers sub-genres from jazz-rock to avant-garde. Drummer Ben Wittman has been part of more than one-hundred recordings as a multi-instrumentalist, producer or engineer working with a range of artists from folk artist Lucy Kaplansky to Sting to the Either/Orchestra.

Of special note, Down the Line represents what is believed to be Lew Soloff's final recording before his death in March 2015, two weeks after completing this album. The legendary trumpeter's resume includes Frank Sinatra, the Mingus Big Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. On Troff's album he appears on only two tracks, "This I Promise You" and the closing track, the poignant "Early Sunday," Soloff playing lower here than his characteristic style.

The eleven original Torff compositions are democratically arranged to allow for Torff, Frahm and McCann to take brief solos though Down the Line is more an ensemble effort. The stylistic variations include funk oriented pieces such as the title track, "Tribal Function" and "Well of Tears" and the furtive and more improvisational "Last Dispatch from the Road to Hell." Brazilian undercurrents play a role on "This I Promise You," "Beginning to End," "Memoriam" and "Once and for All."

While Torff's strength may not be trailblazing improvisation and Down the Line isn't dominated by break-out solos, he nevertheless has a unique harmonic view and the ability to bring lyrical and angular qualities together seamlessly. Torff's melodies are swayed by a contemporary and forward-looking perspective that keeps the album from falling into the increasingly large black hole of fusion/smooth jazz. Down the Line is an enthusiastic and tasteful album that should be broadly appealing.

Track Listing: Enceladus; Down the Line; Wave of Silence; Tribal Function; This I Promise You; Well of Tears; Beginning to End; Last Dispatch from the Road to Hell; Memoriam; Once and for All; Early Sunday.

Personnel: Joel Frahm: saxophone; Pete McCann: guitar; Lew Soloff: trumpet (5, 11); Bruce Torff: keyboards; Ben Wittman: drums, percussion.

Title: Down the Line | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Summit Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Elusive CD/LP/Track Review Elusive
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Transitions CD/LP/Track Review Transitions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Door Girl CD/LP/Track Review Door Girl
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Incidentals CD/LP/Track Review Incidentals
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Converging Tributaries" CD/LP/Track Review Converging Tributaries
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 5, 2017
Read "I'll Be Seeing You" CD/LP/Track Review I'll Be Seeing You
by Chris Mosey
Published: October 24, 2016
Read "Day After Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day After Day
by John Eyles
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "The Space Between" CD/LP/Track Review The Space Between
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2016
Read "Hush Point III" CD/LP/Track Review Hush Point III
by Budd Kopman
Published: January 8, 2017
Read "December Songs" CD/LP/Track Review December Songs
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 5, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.