[Dixielandjazz] NY Times Ruby Braff Obit
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Tue Feb 11 09:41:36 PST 2003
Here is Braff's Obit.
February 11, 2003 - New York Times
Ruby Braff, 75, an Old-Style Jazz Trumpeter, Is Dead
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Ruby Braff, a jazz trumpeter and cornetist who defied the odds by
rising to fame in the modern era with a resolutely old-fashioned style,
died on Sunday in North Chatham, Mass. He was 75 and lived in Harwich,
No cause of death was announced, but he had had lung disease for years,
said a spokesman for Arbors Records, which released many of his most
In the early and middle 1950's Mr. Braff attracted attention not just
for his mellifluous tone and his highly lyrical approach to
improvisation but also for his devotion to a type of jazz that, as far
as many critics and most of his contemporaries were concerned, had
fallen out of vogue years earlier.
At a time when most young trumpet players were following the flash and
bravura of Dizzy Gillespie or the acidic melancholy of Miles Davis, Mr.
Braff's understated and uncomplicated melodicism was a throwback to the
days when Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke set the standard for the
Not surprisingly, Mr. Braff made his name by performing and recording
with musicians two decades older than he was, including the trombonist
Vic Dickenson and the clarinetists Pee Wee Russell and Edmond Hall.
Later in his career he became a mentor to a new generation of musicians
who shared his fondness for older jazz, among them the saxophonist Scott
Hamilton and the guitarist Howard Alden.
Despite Mr. Braff's reputation as a traditionalist, and his insistence
that Armstrong was his only influence, neither his repertory nor his
playing was mired in the past. He discreetly incorporated some modern
harmonic ideas into his work, especially in his later years, and he was
always open to a good melody,
regardless of when it was written. The critic Harvey Pekar spoke for
many admirers when he wrote, "Though Braff's style is rooted in the
1930's, it doesn't sound dated."
Even so, Mr. Braff who could be as outspoken personally as he was
soft-spoken musically always maintained, loudly and angrily, that his
traditionalist bent hurt his career. He once said that he hardly worked
for a five-year period in the late 1950's and early 60's because
promoters considered his music
By the mid-70's the jazz world had grown considerably more open-minded,
and after forming a quartet with the guitarist George Barnes in 1973,
Mr. Braff was seldom without work as a headliner.
Reuben Braff was born in Boston on March 16, 1927. A self-taught
musician, he began working locally at nightclubs and parties in the
1940's. His first significant musical job was a long engagement as a
sideman with Edmond Hall at Boston's Savoy Cafe in 1949. After moving to
New York in 1953, Mr. Braff began performing and recording regularly
with some of the best-known musicians in the jazz mainstream.
He acquired a loyal following and received some admiring reviews, but in
the ensuing years the popularity of more modern styles threatened to
confine him to obscurity. He returned to prominence in the 1960's when
he toured with the Newport All Stars, a group led by George Wein, the
promoter and sometime
pianist, who was among his biggest boosters. (Mr. Braff was on the bill
at the first Newport Jazz Festival, produced by Mr. Wein in 1954, and he
became a regular on Mr. Wein's worldwide festival circuit.)
In 1971 Mr. Braff began a two-year association with Tony Bennett, after
which he and Mr. Barnes began touring and recording together
extensively. Their quartet disbanded in 1975, but Mr. Braff remained
busy as a freelancer, working frequently with the pianist Dick Hyman,
the bassist Michael Moore and others.
He is survived by a sister, Susan Atran of Stoughton, Mass.
Throughout his career Mr. Braff had very clear ideas about how jazz
should and should not be played, and he was never shy about expressing
"Most people play three times louder than they should," he said in a
1997 Downbeat interview. "Music should be played at a conversational
level you can't shout a conversation."
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