[Dixielandjazz] We Remember Ruby Braff

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 23 06:46:17 PDT 2007

IMO, Ruby Braff was, and is, one of the most underated jazz trumpeters by
both critics and fans. He played all the pretty notes.

Steve Barbone

Music Review | ŒWe Remember Ruby¹
In His Memory, the Melodies Linger On

Published: June 23, 2007

There were no fireworks on Wednesday night at the Kaye Playhouse, where the
JVC Jazz Festival presented ³We Remember Ruby,² a tribute to the trumpeter
and cornetist Ruby Braff. They weren¹t needed.

For Mr. Braff, who died in 2003 at the age of 75, jazz was not something to
be shouted or screamed; music, he said on more than one occasion, should be
a conversation. And the 14 musicians who gathered, in various combinations,
to play a selection of Tin Pan Alley standards, songs associated with Billie
Holiday and Louis Armstrong, and other staples of the Braff repertory (among
them a couple of his own compositions) clearly kept that dictum in mind.

The tempos were mostly in the slow-to-medium range, the solos concise, the
intensity level rarely higher than a low flame. The emphasis throughout was
on what Mr. Braff once called ³adoration of the melody,² as opposed to
harmonic cleverness or instrumental pyrotechnics. Working within those
parameters, the assembled musicians provided many extraordinary moments.

Mr. Braff was a member of the bebop generation who had little use for bebop,
and some of Wednesday¹s highlights were provided by musicians who, though a
generation younger, shared his devotion to the jazz ethos of an earlier era
and his indifference to musical trends. Particularly noteworthy were the
tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, whose impassioned but understated solo on
³Them There Eyes² brought things as close to a fever pitch as they got all
evening, and the cornetist Warren Vaché, whose resonant and authoritative
rendition of ³America the Beautiful² (in a duet with the pianist Dick Hyman)
imbued the song with a surprising emotional depth.

It wasn¹t only younger musicians who looked up to Ruby Braff. The festival
impresario George Wein, who was a pianist before he was a promoter ‹ and who
was born a year and half before Mr. Braff ‹ began the concert by fondly
recalling their days playing music together in the late 1940s. Mr. Braff, he
told the audience, was ³my teacher.²

Mr. Wein then attacked the keyboard with gusto, performing three spirited
numbers with a septet that included Mr. Hamilton and the guitarist Bucky
Pizzarelli. And on ³Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,² he did something he has
rarely done since recording a vocal album half a century ago with a band
featuring Mr. Braff: he sang, quite movingly. Mr. Wein may not have hit all
the right notes, but he had the right spirit.

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