Having paid his dues for 20 years, guitarist Jimmy Bruno has returned to his roots of straight-ahead jazz in his hometown of Philadelphia.
After an auspicious debut on the album Sleight of Hand in 1992, Bruno continues to press forward to the delight of fans who are discovering for the first time his intricate technique and melodic aptitude. On Like That, Bruno's regular trio teams up with Joey DeFrancesco to create a guitar/organ collaboration that brings out the best in both of them.
After learning guitar from his father, Jimmy Bruno, Sr. (who had a hit in 1959 with the "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" and who used to back up Nat King Cole), Bruno, Jr. struck out on his own at the age of 19 when he joined the Buddy Rich band. After only a year of touring, he moved to Las Vegas, only to find his jazz ambitions frustrated by the repetition of casino bands. He put down roots in Las Vegas, but his restlessness got the best of him, forcing him to move to Los Angeles for work on television and film sound tracks. As he neared the age of 40, Bruno chucked it all and moved back to Philadelphia to start fresh in a jazz career.
He couldn't have made a better move. Not only does he have four albums under his belt, but also he's a professor at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, as is bassist Craig Thomas, and Bruno performs regularly at Chris' Cafe.
Along with the usual guitarists, Bruno lists his influences as John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker and Art Tatumwhich makes sense when you realize that Bruno thinks in musical concepts instead of licks.
Most of the original compositions on the albumsix by Bruno and one by Thomasare constructed from fairly simple chord changes and a logical concept. But the things he and DeFrancesco do with them!
DeFrancesco proves his adaptability as he responds to Bruno's explorations, and the "chatter" they develop at the culmination of Pat's House, a tribute to Pat Martino, is head-spinning and awe-inspiring.
Then for contrast, there's Waltz for Nancy, whose beautiful simplicity Bruno plumbs with unpretentious variations and effortless cascading of sixteen-note and then triplet lines that seem to evolve naturally from the theme.
While the tunes involving DeFrancesco's B-3 work are the most satisfying, he plays muted trumpet on There Is No Greater Love and Stars Fell on Alabama for subtle effect.
While Les Paul isn't listed as one of Bruno's influences, the Les Paul sound seems to be referenced in the title number called Like That, and indeed, Pat Martino mentions that Paul predicted he would write liner notes for Bruno someday. The mutual admiration between Bruno and Martino seems evident. Bruno records Pat's House, named after, of course, Pat Marino's house. And then, Martino remarks, "Jimmy's one of the most astounding players I've had the pleasure of knowing."
This album was a discovery for me, and it's gratifying to learn about a new jazz guitarist following a tradition of melodic revelation, compositional talent, and technical excellence.
(Jimmy Bruno, guitar; Joey DeFrancesco, organ, trumpet*; Steve Holloway, drums; Craig Thomas, acoustic and electric bass)
E.V.; Raezer's Edge; Waltz for Nancy; There Is No Greater Love*; The Iguana's Uncle; Pat's House; Night Dreamer; The Way You Look Tonight; Like That; Stars Fell on Alabama*; Unit Seven