[Dixielandjazz] Ruby Braff Bio

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Feb 15 09:51:11 PST 2003

He is another bio of Ruby Braff: by: Yasir Agha:

Steve Barbone

A marvelously eloquent, always mellifluous player, Reuben 'Ruby' Braff
(born Boston, Mass., 1927) is something of throwback to jazz of pre -
World War II except that where Braff is concerned his music sounds fresh
and despite strong influences is Armstrong, Berigan, Hackett, James, he
does not slavishly copy any of the great trumpeters / cornettists of the
past. A self - taught musician, Braff has tended to concentrate almost
exclusively on the warmer sound of the cornet (like, for example, Nat
Adderly). His career has seen its shape of ups and downs - the latter
occurring because of a peculiar situation in the 1950s whereby and up -
and - coming player like Braff was unable to find sufficient work
because his style was considered out of date. Even in the 'down' days,
however, Braff managed to attract the attention of record labels and
producers; his not inconsiderable discography thus far gives ample
evidence that Braff has been a model of consistency, in various, mostly
'mainstream', settings.

Braff first came into the notice of record buyers through an appearance
as sideman on a 1953 Vic Dickenson record date (Vic Dickenson
Showcase/The Essential Vic Dickenson). He tended to steal solo limelight
from long established veterans like Dickenson, Ed Hall, and Sir Charles
Thompson. His ballad - playing I Cover The Waterfront was exquisite,
sensitive; his blowing on faster items, Jeepers Creepers, Keepin' Out
Mischief Now was rhythmically subtle, with Braff exhibiting commendable
controlled power, even at moments of climax. Whatever the mood, his
playing maintained an impressive sense of logicality and lyricism that
showed his obvious debt to Hackett. Further exposure - and in  many ways
a deeper insight into Braff's technique and mode of self - expression -
came the following year when he appeared at one - third of Mel Powell
Trio (Thigamagig), then, with a tribute to Billie Holiday (Holiday In
Braff) followed by an absolutely delightful cornet - piano date with
Ellis Larkins (Two By Two) , and a reunion date with Dickenson, this
time with Braff as a leader (The Ruby Braff Special). in this kind of
basically mainstream company, Braff usually is to be heard at his most
relaxed, which probably explains why his participation in George Wein's
touring Newport All Star packages (Tribute To Duke, The Newport All
Stars and Midnight Concert In Paris) has usually found  him operating at
or near to his very best. Much the same can be said with regard to his
live appearance at the diner owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Sutton.

In the '70s, Braff's unique brand of unruffled elegance was gorgeously
showcased in the chamber setting of the Ruby Braff - George Barnes
Quartet - a combo fully operational between 1973 - 75. With Braff
providing the basic spark for the group, ably assisted by guitarist
Barnes, plus rhythm guitar and bass, the cornettist had ample
opportunity to demonstrate, once again, his dexterity and, in
particular, jus how effective it can be in utilizing an essentially
extrovert instrument sotto voce and still produces music that is of
exceptional quality. Indeed, the only complaint was that there were
times when the presence of a drummer and/or another horn might have
injected more fire into proceedings. Certainly, it is true to say that
Ruby Braff operates at a more emotionally satisfying level in more
buoyant surroundings. Rather like his 1967 recording date with Buddy
Tate, George Wein et al (Hear Me Talkin') or, in more recent, post Braff
- Barnes times, in company with such as Jimmie Rowles, Bucky Pizzarelli
and Vic Dicekneson (Them There Eyes).

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