Los Angeles based trumpeter Brian Swartz has an extensive resume as a sideman that has performed with many top of the line jazz artists and big bands throughout his long career. After playing with the Bob Florence Big Band and again with his "Limited Edition" quartet that included bassist Trey Henry and drummer Dick Weller, Swartz convinced Bob Florence to record a collection of standards for a new CD. Thus was born the Brian Swartz Quartet Featuring Bob Florence.
Recorded live at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles in August of 2004, Live At The Jazz Bakery is a recording of six old standards played in a straight-ahead soft and mellow style with many improvisational phrases done with elegance and grace by Swartz, punctuated by the classy piano playing of Bob Florence and supported by a rhythm section that claims their own portion of each tune with style.
You will find that the music on this CD generally runs from low to medium tempo. There are few fast paced riffs and no real loud banging high notes stuff here by either Swartz or Florence. That's not to say that you won't hear some power playing from both of these guys. Florence plays with his usual trade mark cool and when the music calls for it, he plays with force and clarity.
The first track, the familiar Mancini/Mercer composition, "Days of Wine and Roses," is characterized by a lot of improvisations from both Swartz and Florence. Swartz sets the pace on the first verse followed by Florence on the second verse and bassist Henry with a solo on the next verse. This tune does not really highlight any instrument and becomes a shared musical arrangement.
"My Romance" begins with a fine flugelhorn-bass collaboration that sets up the entry by Florence who takes over the music with an excellent piano solo that you knew was coming. "Never Let Me Go," the third track and the only number arranged by Swartz, is in my opinion, clearly the best cut of the album. One of the best renditions of this standard recorded. It's an upbeat catchy number that will have you humming the music in the shower. Swartz plays this tune with passion and fire while Florence starts off slowly and then builds up to a key pounding climax. There's great interplay between the band on this one.
The fourth track, "Stardust," is all Bob Florence on piano with a short burst of brass from Swartz. Interestingly enough, time wise, it is the shortest track on the album with a playing time of seven minutes. Florence is magnificent on this piece in which he once again hits those keys hard as if he were making a musical statement. "Star Eyes" and "All The Things You Are" are the two cuts that feature some hot trumpet solos by Swartz as he stamps his style on the music and this CD.
As a jazz lover you can appreciate the music, musicianship and the harmony you'll find on this album. If there is any criticism from my part of this recording, it would be the playing time length of the tracks. I believe that each number could have been shortened without sacrificing quality. Five of the tracks ran from eleven to fifteen minutes in playing time. A bit much for the average listener. In all, Live At The Jazz Bakery is one excellent CD that I enjoyed listening to. Great job Brian Swartz. I look forward to his next project.