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Ruby Braff: Music For The Still Of The Night

Mike Neely By

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Ruby Braff has been so good for so long that it’s easy to take him for granted. He suffers from what a friend of mine calls the "Zoot Sims Syndrome" a situation in which another great release is not given its due because what did you expect? Well, Ruby Braff keeps cranking them out: creative performances with inspired bands. He also keeps attracting (like Sims consistently did) some of the best musicians jazz has to offer, his latest recording Music For The Still Of The Night is no exception with a cast that includes John Bunch, Howard Alden, Michael Moore, and Kenny Washington.

Ruby Braff is a self-taught cornetist who grew up in Boston. Braff has had a long productive career that has included performing or recording with Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton, Scott Hamilton, Roger Kellaway, Mel Powell, Ellis Larkins, Dick Hyman, Gene DiNovi, Tony Bennett, and George Barnes. His long string of recent recordings with Arbors Records (last count eleven CDs) will likely be seen as a highlight of his distinguished career.

Music For The Still Of The Night, his latest Arbors release opens with "Thinking of You" which acts as an introduction to his marvelous rhythm section with short, consecutive solos by John Bunch, Harold Alden, Michael Moore, and then Kenny Washington. Finally, the cornet of Ruby Braff lofts out above this complex mesh of music and we’re reminded of what a vigorous, bright tone Braff commands. But he soon displays how he can deftly modulate his tone and approach continually moving swiftly with the emotions of the performance. Braff is one of those soloists who is so surefooted that at times his long solos sound almost pre-composed.

Michael Moore on bass and Kenny Washington on drums are subtle, smart and simply about as good of a rhythm team as a jazz musician could want. Their concise solos are always worth the wait. Harold Alden has been caught on a good day, playing aggressively, helping to drive the action. To say that John Bunch on piano is ridiculously underrated is to state the obvious to anyone who has a pair of jazz ears.

Ruby Braff’s solo work on "Willow Weep For Me" and on "I Wished on the Moon" are two of my favorite solos on the disc. His opening solo on the latter tune is immediately complimented by a long, gorgeous bluesy John Bunch solo. Overall, Braff and his band are in no hurry; this very long (75:07) disc allows for a casual pace, long solos, and an easy-going rapport. With this new recording, Arbors has released another excellent Ruby Braff performance with a first rate band — it’s difficult not to quip — well, what did you expect? Don’t pass this one by — highly recommended.

Track Listing: Thinking of You; Can

Personnel: Ruby Braff, cornet; John Bunch, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Michael Moore, bass; Kenny Washington, drums.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Arbors Records | Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing


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