Sunday, September 5, 2010

Benny's Bugle

By all accounts, Benny Goodman wasn't the kind to spare anyone's feelings if his neurotic dander was up. So we can assume that he wanted the younger cornetist Ruby Braff at his side for this informal 1968 romp through "Avalon," although he could have retained the original clarinet-piano-vibes-drums configuration of the quartet with which Goodman broke up Carnegie Hall thirty years before. That Braff fits the bass-less outfit like a glove is no surprise, he was a consistently marvelous mainstream player throughout his six-decade career. (If anything, you wonder how the famously prickly brassman got along personally with Goodman, the master of insensitivity. Dan Morgenstern and Loren Schoenberg will have to pony up any anecdotes.) No matter, the music is sheer fun, buoyed by comradely good spirits. Goodman and Hampton are out to show that time hadn’t diminished their swing; Braff, again, no surprise, is a model of melodious tact. Pianist Stacy’s resourcefulness covers for the missing bottom, while Krupa exhibits the aggressive bass drum oomph that endeared him to generations of proudly assertive drummers including Tony Williams. I’ll surely be singing Braff’s praises in the future, but for now hear him in tandem with another great reedman, Bob Wilber, on the Arbors release: “Soprano Summit - 1975 and More!”

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