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Ruby, my dear...
on 24 December 2010
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and quite diverse compilation!!!!!
Yes, it took me a while to get used to the beauty of Ruby Braff's playing... He was obviously a disciple of earlier cornet/trumpet giants (why, he said it himself - he was a disciple of L. Armstrong university, from which you never graduate)but, actually, he doesn't sound like Armstrong, Berigan, Beiderbecke, Clayton, Eldridge or any of the older trumpet giants who preceded him. Stylistically, you can put him between Chicago school of jazz, swing (and dixieland) BUT the diversity of his tone is WAY above the average (check out his lower-register inventiveness if you please!);
his melodical inventiveness is obviously at the top of, well, mainstream jazz while the way he sounds (and constructs his solos) is actually transceding any style the material, other musicians or the record procuder might want to drag him into. Actually, in being so unique, Braff reminds me of another gigantic and momentuous trumpet player - Henry "Red" Allen...
I believe this 2 CD album-compilation finds Ruby in excellent form, with various sounds and arrangements, in great company, to say the least.
The first album "Hi-Fi Salute to Bunny", tribute to B. Berigan (recorded in 1957) finds Ruby in the company of Benny Morton (tb), Pee Wee Russell (cl), Dick Hafer (ts), Nat Pierce (p), Steve Jordan (g), Walter Page (b) and Buzzy Drootin (dm).... Any record with Pee Wee Russell will be high on my wishlist and this is a great one, but Ruby is the star in spite of the illustrious company of other horns (Benny Morton is hardly a slouch himself)...
The second album (recorded in '58) is maybe only slightly less impressive than the first, but it's also great; it finds Ruby in two set-ups; the first more arranged and disciplined, the other more loose (but MAYBE not swinging as hard as one would expect from horn combination).
The album is "Easy Now - Ruby Braff and his men"... The men are:
a)Emmett Berry (tp), Vic Dickenson (tb), Bob Wilber (ts), Marty Napoleon (p), Mundell Lowe (g), Leonard Gaskin (b), Don Lamond (dm)
b)Roy Eldridge (tp), Hank Jones (p), M. Lowe (g), L. Gaskin (b), D. Lamond (dm)
The third album (recorded in '59) is the most modern sounding (no, nothing far-out, just a touch of advanced swing and maybe even occasional cool); it's a marvelously arranged "Ruby Braff and his Trumpet" with
Don Elliot (vb), Mundell Lowe (g), Hank Jones or Nat Pierce (p), Milt Hinton (b), Don Lamond (dm)... In light of what I said of relative "modernity" of this album, Nat Hentoff's very useful liner notes inform us that Stan Getz's interpretation was the main inspiration for Ruby's version of "You'd be so nice to come home to"... Incidentaly, it is just one of great standards played on this album (Swing that music, Let's do it...) and on other albums of this compilation songs such as Yesterdays, I'm Coming Virginia, I can't get started, I got it bad (and that ain't good)...
The rest of this package (one of my better purchases on the amazon website) is taken by two performances from the great Newport jazz festival; the first one, quite well known (back to 1957), by The Ruby Braff Octet, has part of the line-up from the first album (which is very good), including the great Pee Wee (a jazz giant comparable to Dizzy, Miles, Hawk and other jazz giants IMHO):
P. W. Russell (cl), Sam Margolis (ts), Jimmy Welch (valv-tb), N. Pierce (p), S. Jordan (g), W. Page (b), B. Drootin (dm)... And boy, do they swing on "It don't mean a thing", "These foolish things" and "Oh! Lady be good"! Believe you me, this live music will transcend you to another level!
Apparently, the original recording of this group includes chatting of Ruby and the MC, but it was edited out in order to include, another less familiar session from the same festival, this time in 1959...
Here we have Ruby in a group called Jimmy Rushing & The Newport All-Stars:
J. Rushing (vo), Buck Clayton, R. Braff (tp), P. W. Russell (cl), Bud Freeman (ts), Vic Dickenson (tb), Ray Bryant (p), Freddie Green (g), Champ Jones (b), B. Drootin (dm)....
You can see from the line-up this material is actually quite diverse; in addition to a whole lot of trumpet playing, there are some MAGNIFICENT contributions by a great clarinetist, mighty trombone players and other musicians... Buy it while it's hot - it has liner notes, personelle, dates and everything (the data I'm giving is available inside the booklet; the interpetation is mine).