The Boston-born cornetist played the Bean Town scene during the 1940s and entered the recording studio in 1949 as part of Edmond Hall’s All-Stars. Braff went on to play with the best of the best, from Pee Wee Russell to Benny Goodman to Jack Teagarden. No matter the band, if Braff was there, it would swing.
Controlled Nonchance - Volume One was recorded back in 1993 and when released in 1995, became "best jazz record of the year" by Jazz Journal International. That’s quite a feat for what might be considered a "traditional jazz" session. This 2006 release, Volume 2, offers listeners a delicious second helping. Here are nine more tracks from the Reggatabar including notes by veteran writer Dan Morgenstern.
The new CD presents the Braff sextet swinging more jazz standards from such writers as Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Fats Waller, Johnny Burke and Jimmy McHugh. The cornetist loved melody and this disc is a fine example of Braff’s good taste. Joined by fellow New Englanders, the leader kicks of the set with Cole Porter’s "It’s All Right With Me" offering the audience to hear brief feature breaks by all members of the band. Another highlight is the Ellington medley. It’s twelve minutes of delightful music and a chance to hear guitarist, Gary Sargent, bassist Marshall Woods and the venerable Dave McKenna. McKenna and Braff played together for half a century. Scott Hamilton delivers some tasty solo work on the "I Got It Bad" portion of the medley.
Bing Crosby had a major hit in 1944 with Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s "Swinging On A Star." In spite of the song’s popularity, it is seldom heard as a jazz piece later than the decade of its creation. The Braff sextet kicks the old chestnut along at a moderate tempo and drummer, Chuck Riggs gets a chance to shine. Another old standard, "These Foolish Things," is treated to a beautiful nine minute reading by the band. Both McKenna and the leader are allotted extended solo spots plus a fine example of Gary Sargent’s elegant touch. Hamilton takes the tune out in great style.
This album belongs on the shelf of any Ruby Braff fan. The cornetist is among a group of like-minded musicians and they come together with an explosive version of "Them There Eyes." This one really moves and everyone gets a chance to show-off a bit. We liked Scott Hamilton’s burning solo. Gary Sargent quotes several melodies in his witty and Django-like part.
There are several other tunes that we have not mentioned but you can hear samples on the label’s website. Five stars!