As its title indicates, this is the second recording made by guitarist Jimmy Bruno’s trio during recent gigs at New York’s fabled Birdland, and as with the first, the listener is treated to two sessions for the price of one, with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton making it a quartet on the second half of the program (on Live at Birdland I,
the trio’s guest was alto saxophonist Bobby Watson). That’s quite a contrast, as Hamilton is as laid–back as Watson is fiery, but Bruno and his colleagues (bassist Thomas, drummer Ector) seem unfazed by the disparity, blending as seamlessly with Hamilton’s easygoing Sims/Getz–inspired notions as they did with Watson’s more volatile Bird–based sorties. The trio tracks come first, and what is immediately apparent is that Bruno undeniably belongs in the top echelon of modern bop–influenced guitarists. He is some kind of bad–ass picker! Also worth noting is that he has chosen a superb rhythm section to help keep the session on an even keel. Thomas’s resonant bass and Ector’s in–the–pocket fills on cymbal or snare complement perfectly Bruno’s lightning–like single–note passages and elegant chordal syncopations. Thomas, who solos impressively on several occasions, also wrote “Chesapeake Blues,” one of the program’s two original compositions (the other is Bruno’s “Reticulation”). For sheer textural beauty, the trio reaches its zenith on “Poinciana.” The sparks fly on “Reticulation” and Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring,” while “Chesapeake Blues” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” glide along at the sort of unhurried pace that is always so becoming to guitar–led trios. Hamilton makes his first appearance on “Broadway,” taking its fast–paced hustle and bustle in stride with a typically perceptive solo that follows some torrid licks by Bruno. The quartet lingers in a loose and mellow Hamiltonesque groove for the next three selections — “Lover Man,” “I Hear a Rhapsody,” “Darn That Dream” — before turning on the after–burners for the rapid–fire finale, Vincent Youmans’ “I Want to Be Happy.” After its completion, Bruno, to his credit, introduces everyone in a clear and well–modulated voice. Trio or quartet, you’re unlikely to hear anything much better than this. And Volume 1 is in that same league.
Track listing: Reticulation; Chesapeake Blues; Joy Spring; Poinciana; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Broadway; Lover Man; I Hear a Rhapsody; Darn That Dream; I Want to Be Happy (61:12).