Ruby Braff And The Flying Pizzarellis – C’est Magnifique – Arbors Records ARCD 19270, 71:54 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
(Ruby Braff – cornet; Bucky Pizzarelli – guitar; John Pizzarelli – guitar& vocals on tracks 8, 9; Ray Kennedy – piano; Martin Pizzarelli – bass; Jim Gwinn – drums)
Ruby Braff, who died in 2003, was a cornetist who authored one of the most flowing and individual styles on his instrument. While he was frequently neglected early in his career, he eventually became recognized as one of the most artful interpreters on the cornet since Louis Armstrong. This Arbors release was his final recording date, completed in June 2002, and was a happy collaboration with long- time musical friend Bucky Pizzarelli.
Although Braff’s health was delicate with emphysema, he sailed through this session with no signs of any deterioration in his playing. The tunes were all chosen by Braff, and for the most part, come from his standard play list that he used throughout his career. ”Lulu’s Back In Town” opens the proceedings with a nice punchy introduction by Braff and then is followed by flowing exchanges among the musicians with Braff finally taking the group out. Braff and Bucky Pizzarelli had previously recorded together, but the addition of The John Pizzarelli Trio was a departure and a welcomed one, which added another dynamic to the creative process. On “You’re A Lucky Guy” the group offers a background of “Perdido” for Braff’s lead which gives the tune an interesting twist. The essential harmonious appeal that Braff brought to any tune is very evident on the ballad “When A Woman Loves A Man”.
Cole Porter wrote “C’est Magnifique” for his 1953 musical “Can-Can” and although it has become somewhat of a standard, it was never one of Porter’s more popular compositions. Nevertheless, Braff and the gang prance through the tune with abandon. John Pizzarelli takes a cool and welcoming vocal turn on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “As Time Goes By” in which he provides the unusual opening verses to both tunes as the lead into Braff’s exploration of the familiar choruses, and then the band fills in the gaps with solo turns. In 1955, singer/pianist Matt Dennis recorded an album called “She Dances Overhead” as a tribute to Rodgers & Hart which included “Dancing On The Ceiling”. This gave the tune some unexpected airplay and recognition. While it has not found general acceptance as an instrumental jazz piece, the superbly constructed improvising by Braff and the members of the band give notice for its reconsideration.
Ruby Braff was a perfectionist who did not suffer fools gladly. Supported by the irrepressible musicality and professionalism of the members of the Pizzarelli family, he delivered a disc that supports his legacy.
PS. For more on Bucky & John Pizzarelli see the concurrent review of their Arbors release “Generations”.
TrackList: Lulu’s Back In Town; Was I To Blame For Falling In Love With You?; You’re A Lucky Guy; When A Woman Loves A Man; C’est Magnifique; My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; As Time Goes By; Sometimes I’m Happy; Dancing On The Ceiling.