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Variety Is The Spice Of Braff by Ruby Braff

Cornetist Ruby Braff epitomizes the Arbors artist. He is mainstream, well-grounded in the tradition, and brings an extra dimension of creativity to the mix. If you define that extra dimension as "spice" it has been there on all his thirteen CDs for that label. In this case, it is emphasized by his playing in varied settings.

Tommy Newsom displays his gift for lighter-than-air string arrangements on the three tracks that open the album. (Braff's previous Arbors CD with strings, "In the Wee, Small Hours," produced what is for me THE version of "White Christmas.") The swinging "Moments Like This" showcases the rhythm section with a fine solo and definitive rhythm guitar by Bucky Pizzarelli.

Except for the closing quartet medley, the remaining tracks feature big bands ranging from 14 pieces to a tentet. Braff's writing is light and tight, the bands are very much together, and don't worry, solo space abounds. With soloists like Davern, Masso, Robinson and Newsom there had better be room! "Crazy Rhythm " is combined with Basie's "Broadway" and there is a delightful "Jumpin' at the Woodside" where Bill Charlap, who plays more notes than Basie, suggests that other Bill by his light touch and occasional bass lick. (It's worthwhile to give this CD a spin while just listening to Charlap's contributions. He's a master.)

This is truly Braff's album. Whether he's soaring over the strings or the big band, caressing a melody or swinging away, he is always melodic and instantly recognizable with that edgy low register sound. Dan Morgenstern, Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers, calls Braff's performance a masterpiece. He's right.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ruby Braff
  • CD Title: Variety Is The Spice Of Braff
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Arbors Jazz
  • Tracks: There’s a Small Hotel; Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe; Moments Like This; Crazy Rhythm; Liza (All The Clouds Roll By); Jumpin’ At The Woodside; I Ain’t Got Nobody; Somebody Stole my Gal; Memories Of You; It Must Be True.
  • Musicians: Ruby Braff (leader/arranger/cornet). Collective personnel includes: Howard Alden, Joe Ascione, John Beal, Bill Charlap, Kenny Davern, Skitch Henderson, Jon-Erik Kellso, Sherrie Maricle, George Masso, Tommy Newsom, Bucky Pizzarelli, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Jack Stuckey, Frank Tate, Joe Wilder and Chuck Wilson.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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