John Bunch – Do Not Disturb – Arbors Records

by | Jan 11, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

John Bunch – Do Not Disturb – Arbors Records ARCD 19403, 72:01 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

(John Bunch – piano; Frank Vignola – guitar; John Webber – bass)

When John Bunch passed away last year, the jazz community lost an unknown legend. Like Eubie Blake, he never stopped working as a pianist.  Raised in the heartland of Indiana, he was performing with adult bands at the age of fourteen. As a member of the greatest generation, he served in World War II, and learned to arrange Big Band music in a German P.O.W. camp. Upon his return, he was refused admission to study music at a university, because he couldn’t sight-read classical music. Jazz would be his ticket to commercial success.

In the late fifties, Bunch played with Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Eddie Condon, and a host of others. His big break came as musical director for Tony Bennett. Subsequently, he resumed playing with big band artists as well as modern jazz purveyors, like Scott Hamilton. As a solo pianist, he recorded a critically-acclaimed collection of Kurt Weill songs. His own trio, with John Pizzarelli and Jay Leonheart, was renowned in the New York jazz scene. Comfortable with both swing and bebop, he sustained a career for over fifty years.  Bunch toured the world, and performed as a solo artist at Carnegie Hall. Sight reading aside, he has conducted various symphony orchestras. His recordings include interpretations of iconic standards from Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington, in addition to his own compositions.

Do Not Disturb
is the worthy finale of an under-appreciated musician. Fronting a trio featuring piano, guitar and bass (not unlike the Nat Cole Trio), thirteen memorable arrangements spring to life. This specific combination allows all three musicians to alternate melody and bass lines Bunch shares the soloing duties generously with Vignola and Webber. The album opens with a pleasant surprise, the humorously titled, “John’s Bunch”. Staring with an impressive boogie woogie introduction, the trio rips into percussive interplay. The bebop influences are explored in great detail.  Vignola handles the lead on the Gillespie/ Parker/Bishop up tempo jam, “Anthropology”, switching off lead play with Bunch. “Four”, a gem from Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, mixes all three instruments into a precise lockstep, but with plenty of room for improvisation.  Sonny Rollins’ “Doxie” has a beguiling smooth rhythm that allows the ensemble a more relaxed sound.

Bunch is keenly aware of his connection to the sophisticated American composers. Two Ellington songs grace the album. The first, “Do Not Disturb” is an elegant, lyrical number that showcases the erudition of Bunch. His tasteful playing has compelled one critic to call him “The Fred Astaire Of The Piano”, and “Gentleman” John Bunch. Moodiness pervades the second classic, “Come Sunday”, as the graceful, subtlety of the melody is captured with a nimble touch. Vignola and Bunch offer fluid, discerning technique, avoiding redundancy. Another highlight is the jazzy/blues version of Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now”, with its upper register piano trills and moody ambiance.

Nearly ten years in the making, Do Not Disturb is the definitive legacy of a dedicated artist. 

TrackList: John’s Bunch; Doxy; Bill; Do Not Disturb; My Ideal; Anthroplogy; I’ve Just Seen Her; Four; My Man’s Gone Now; In Your Own Sweet Way; Come Sunday; You’re My Everything; Get Out Of Town

— Robbie Gerson

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