Brian Bromberg, LaFaro Review

Brian Bromberg, LaFaro Review

by Jeff Becker

In the annals of jazz history, specific figures stand as titans, their contributions reverberating through the ages. Scott LaFaro, the revolutionary bassist of the Bill Evans Trio, occupies such a lofty position, his innovative approach to the upright bass forever altering the course of jazz. Brian Bromberg’s latest album, aptly titled LaFaro, is a heartfelt homage to this legendary figure, capturing the essence of his groundbreaking style while showcasing Bromberg’s virtuosity on the instrument.

From the opening notes of “Solar,” the album transports listeners into a world of swinging rhythms and melodic improvisations. Bromberg, alongside pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero, embarks on a musical journey that pays tribute to LaFaro’s trailblazing spirit. The trio’s rendition of Miles Davis classics like “Milestones” and “Nardis” is imbued with a sense of reverence for the piano trio format, each track serving as a canvas for Bromberg’s solo style to unfold. Through Bromberg’s virtuosic playing and the ensemble’s dynamic interplay, the album captures the essence of LaFaro’s legacy while showcasing the trio’s unique musical outlook and Bromberg’s individualistic approach to soloing within the piano trio tradition.

One must discuss LaFaro’s legacy by delving into his revolutionary approach to bass playing. Unlike his contemporaries, LaFaro eschewed traditional walking basslines in favor of a more melodic and interactive style. His counter-melodic approach, showcased prominently on recordings like Bill Evans’ iconic albums “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” and “Waltz for Debby,” transformed the role of the bass within the jazz trio format. Bromberg deftly channels this spirit throughout the album, emphasizing the bass as an accompanying and solo instrument. With nimble fingers dancing across the strings with precision and grace, Bromberg pays homage to LaFaro’s groundbreaking contributions while infusing the music with his distinctive voice.

The trio’s interpretation of “Waltz for Debby” is delightful, capturing the essence of the original recording while infusing it with their own creative energy. Bromberg’s solo on this track is melodic, his lines weaving effortlessly through the harmonic landscape. Similarly, “Gloria’s Step” and “My Foolish Heart” showcase Bromberg’s lyrical focus, each note resonating with emotion and depth. However, his technique allows him to play fast, fluid lines on the bass, build energy, and dazzle with his virtuosity. This blend of melodic sensitivity and technical brilliance highlights Bromberg’s versatility as a musician, ensuring that each performance on the album is engaging and technically impressive.

One of the album’s standout moments comes in the form of Bromberg’s unaccompanied rendition of “Danny Boy.” Here, stripped of any musical accompaniment, Bromberg’s bass takes on a hauntingly beautiful quality; its rich chordal tones and expressive single-note phrasing captivate the listener’s imagination. It is a testament to Bromberg’s skill as a musician that he can command such attention with a single double bass.

Throughout LaFaro, Bromberg pays homage to the man and the legacy he left behind. LaFaro’s tragic death at the age of 25 cut short a career that promised to reshape the landscape of jazz bass playing. Yet, his influence lives on in the countless musicians who continue to be inspired by his groundbreaking contributions.

In his liner notes, Bromberg expresses his hope that listeners will appreciate the spirit of the recording and the respect he holds for LaFaro’s enormous contribution to jazz music. Indeed, LaFaro is a fitting tribute to a jazz icon, capturing the essence of his revolutionary spirit while showcasing Bromberg’s considerable talents as a musician and bandleader.


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