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Jimmy Bruno: Maplewood Avenue & Jazz Hits, Vol. 1

Tom Greenland By

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Jimmy Bruno
Maplewood Avenue
Affiliated Artists
2007


MB3
Jazz Hits, Vol. 1
Mel Bay
2006




Jimmy Bruno, one of the most technically proficient yet stylistically-nuanced hard bop guitarists to emerge from the lineage of fellow Pennsylvanians Pat Martino and George Benson, remains a guitarist's guitarist — if not a trendsetter, certainly a standard bearer.

Maplewood Avenue, a trio date with Tony Miceli (vibes) and Jeff Pedraz (bass), shoots for an impromptu-jam-session-in-the-living-room effect, recorded in continuous takes with no overdubbing. Lacking drums, Pedraz provides additional drive with right-hand slap techniques; unfortunately, the bass's high and low frequencies are separated in the mix (panned right and left, respectively), creating the distracting illusion of a fourth musician. On a positive note, the close mic-ing captures any and all extraneous string noises — every snap, crackle and pop — effectively simulating the you-are-there ambiance of an intimate venue. Bruno impresses, not so much for his ability to execute intricate ideas at fast tempos, but more because of his careless precision, laced with infinite gradations of tone and attack: on "PA Turnpike he wields the plastic plectrum like a natural outgrowth of his hand, negotiating the trickiest of lines with effortless fluidity; on "Jimmy's House , a parboiler, even his most audacious gambits land lightly on their feet, connecting and, ultimately, concluding. Miceli and Pedraz, too, are timekeepers of the first order, creating a groove-y gestalt of relaxed propulsion.

For Jazz Hits, Vol. 1, Bruno called on two accomplished colleagues, veteran Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen (a St. Louis local deserving wider recognition), for a six-string summit meeting. Covering some of the most-played standards in The Real Book, Bruno & Co. show what can be accomplished with inborn talent and plenty of practice: Miles Davis' evergreen "All Blues is reinvigorated courtesy of Christiansen's delta blues-isms rendered, slide-wise, on a solid-metal National resonator guitar; Horace Silver's "Peace is reharmonized and contrapuntal; and "Softly (As in a Morning Sunrise) receives rock-metal colorations. Each guitarist has their own sound: Bruno keeps clean and dry, without effects; Juris favors a wet, mid-rangy tone with dollops of chorus and delay; and Christiansen plies the middle ground — damp, slightly washed, with occasional forays into compressed overdrive. Juris is notably inspired on this session, playing with simultaneous cohesion and abandon, bringing it all back home with some wall-banging blues on "Killer Joe .

For aspiring guitarists, Jimmy Bruno is the man to catch: he's raising the bar and lowering the boom.


Tracks & Personnel

Maplewood Avenue

Tracks: Maplewood Avenue; Easton Street Bossa; PA Turnpike; Route 611; Upstairs for Coffee; Song for Meg; Jimmy's House; Bach Sonata Trio; She's a Fox.

Personnel: Jimmy Bruno: guitar; Tony Miceli: vibraphone; Jeff Pedras: bass.

Jazz Hits, Volume 1

Tracks: Solar; Cantaloupe Island; Impressions; Peace; All Blues; Freedom Jazz Dance; On Green Dolphin Street; Milestones; Softly (As in a Morning Sunrise); Killer Joe.

Personnel: Vic Juris: guitars; Jimmy Bruno: guitars; Corey Christiansen: guitars; Jay Anderson: bass; Danny Gottlieb: drums.


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