Birdland. For decades the name has been synonymous with the very best jazz has to offer. Virtuoso guitarist, Jimmy Bruno has earned his place there and then some. His runs are stunningly imaginative, borrowing the styles and sounds of everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Charlie Parker. He has the singular ability to transmute the sound of his guitar into whatever his heart desires.
No sound, no combination of sounds, no amount of speed is out of the question for this Philadelphia favorite who has toured with the likes of Buddy Rich, and is well known on the Las Vegas circuit. Kicking off Birdland II, an album that would make any aspiring guitarist cry, is Bruno’s only original, “Reticulation.” It uses familiar sounds clashed with Bruno’s swanky, jazzy twists and turns. It is an introduction that cannot be reckoned with. “Chesapeake Blues” comes compliments of the competent bassist, Craig Thomas, and while well done, pales in comparison to the speedier more “acidic” stylings that are Bruno’s trademark throughout the album. The rest of the album consists of covers that, in the true tradition of jazz, bear only a slight resemblance to their originals. Of special note is Buddy Bernier and Nat Simon’s “Ponciana,” in which Bruno’s deft style can only be accounted for by his touch. “Broadway,” as well as introducing us to Scott Hamilton on the tenor saxophone, makes me wonder if this Bruno fellow is human at all. His infinite bank of breathtaking techniques, and his ability to meld trick after trick together into a tapestry of beautiful sounds leaves me wanting to crouch at the feet of this string plucking demi-god.
Bassist, Craig Thomas melds well with Bruno’s style, but often overplays on solos and loses his mystique. Drummer, Vince Ector finds a quiet niche within the sparkle of Bruno’s style, but doesn’t let you forget what drummers are there for. Scott Hamilton, who wows us only for the last four tracks of the album, adds a tasty syrup of sax to this already filling album.
Bruno, who teaches jazz fundamentals at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, is always looking for new sounds. His newer approaches include working distortion and electronics, and if he can keep them from weighing down his music, he may quite possibly be able to play every sound imaginable. What a frightful thought!
// Notes from the Road
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