Brian Bromberg's extraordinary new release is a jazz album cured of the blues. Devoid of deep suffering pools, spare introspective valleys or convoluted mazes of cerebration, the mostly trio Wood II looks out over a vista of pure musical enjoyment seen from peaks of virtuosic playfulness.
Listening to Bromberg take apart and reconstruct such staples as "Caravan, "Blue Bossa and "Bolivia is like watching a child diving into a birthday cake. He consumes these tunes with wild abandon, totally engaged in the musical moment and the fun of being the center of attention. Even tunes like "Witch Hunt and "Butterfly, which come the closest to sliding into a bluesy arena in a formal sense, remain so buoyed by Bromberg's funky lines and bright popping solos that any latent melancholy hidden in the tunes ends up completely inoculated.
As satisfying as they are, Bromberg's exuberant explorations of the jazz terrain may not be the most enticing aspects of the album. Some of the best pieces are Bromberg's treatment of other genres, including a solo cover of Kansas's "Carry on My Wayward Son, an extravagant rendition of Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star, on which Bromberg contributes three overdubbed bass tracks, and an unadorned solo version of Paul McCartney's simple tune "Let 'Em In. In fact, the whole album can be seen as a path between those two tunes. On the one extreme, Bromberg gives us a rambunctious romp celebrating the far reaches of bass expression, and on the other end of the spectrum, he offers a pared-down and beautifully delivered exercise in simplicity.
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