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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Phoenix 131608



1. Star Dust

2. Here’s Freddie

3. Indian Summer

4. Blue Turning Grey Over You

5. Just One More Chance

6. When My Dreamboat Comes Home

7. You’re Lucky To Me

8. Moonglow

9. It’s Been So Long

10. Too Marvellous For Words.

11. How Long Has This Been Going On?

12. ‘S Wonderful

13. As Long As I Live

14. If I Had You

15. I’m Shooting High

16. Moonglow

17. You’re Lucky To Me

18. ‘S Wonderful

Ruby Braff – Cornet

Buzzy Drootin - Drums

Dave McKenna – Piano (tracks 1, 4, 9, 11, 13-15)

Steve Jordan – Guitar (tracks 1, 4, 9, 11, 13-15)

Lawrence Brown – Trombone (tracks 2, 5, 7, 12, 17, 18)

Coleman Hawkins – Tenor sax (tracks 2, 5, 7, 12, 17, 18)

Ernie Caceres – Baritone sax (tracks 2, 5, 7, 12, 17, 18)

Don Elliott – Vibes (tracks 2, 3, 5-8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18)

Nat Pierce – Piano (tracks 2, 3, 5-8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18)

Freddie Green – Guitar (tracks 2, 3, 5-8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18)

Eddie Jones – Bass (tracks 2, 3, 5-8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18)

Having established himself with his memorable performances on a 1953 session led by Vic Dickenson, Ruby Braff – you might have thought – was ready to record as a solo artist. Yet the mixed personnels on this 1956 album suggest that producers may still have been uncertain of the best company with which to record Braff. Seven of the tracks are by a quartet; six tracks are by a nonet; and the remaining five tracks are by a sextet. All were taped between 26 June and 10 July, 1956.

The quartet tracks are the best ones in which to hear Ruby unalloyed, accompanied by that splendid pianist Dave McKenna plus guitarist Steve Jordan (instead of a bassist) and drummer Buzzy Drootin, who was present throughout all these sessions. Star Dust is a good example of Braff’s lyricism, and Dave McKenna’s piano solo is a model of effective simplicity. Ruby’s cornet sounds distant in Blue Turning Grey Over You, but this may be his reticence or a result of the recording. It’s Been So Long is a rare song which allows Braff to sound as he did on those 1953 sessions, assisted by the strummed guitar of Steve Jordan. How Long Has This Been Going On? has the same qualities. Tracks 13 to 15 (like tracks 16 to 18) were not on the original LP. They provide more examples of a melodic quartet working in close harmony together.

The personnels for the remaining sessions were very different from the basic mainstream group that fitted Braff like a glove in the famous Vic Dickenson recordings. For instance, however well the vibraphone is played by Don Elliott, it somehow seems out of place alongside Ruby. This is proved by the section of Too Marvellous For Words where Ruby and Don play in awkward harmony. Nonetheless, this doesn’t affect the quality of the solos, which are first-class. Ruby plays a nice muted cornet in Indian Summer. His own composition, Here’s Freddie, displays the ensemble to good effect, and Coleman Hawkins contributes a muscular sax solo. Nat Pierce introduces When My Dreamboat Comes Home at a cracking tempo and Don Elliott keeps up the pace in his solo. On every track where he performs, Lawrence Brown plays with honey-sweet smoothness.

This is a strange mélange of a CD but it contains many things to savour. Sadly, although the album’s sub-title is “Ruby Braff featuring Coleman Hawkins”, Hawk hardly gets a look-in.

Tony Augarde

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