Review: Brian Bromberg – LaFaro – 2024


As much as one can appreciate the astonishing stylistic breadth of music that is gathered under the banner of “jazz” today, for many listeners there remains nothing like a supremely swinging straight-ahead date for listening pleasure.

For those folks, Brian Bromberg’s gorgeous new album LaFaro delivers on many levels: musicianship, sound quality, thematic cohesion and classic tunes. Bromberg is a master bassist who has done extensive work as a Los Angeles-based session musician in addition to releasing 28 of his own albums, including prior thematic tributes to Jaco Pastorius (Jaco, A440, 2002) and Jimi Hendrix (Bromberg Plays Hendrix, Be Squared, 2020).

The present album pays tribute to the great Scott LaFaro, who rocketed to renown as the astonishingly inventive bassist for the classic Bill Evans trio in 1959. LaFaro reinvented the role of the bass in jazz in a remarkably short time before his life was cut cruelly short by an automobile crash in 1961. His legacy looms large to this day, and there can be few acoustic bassists in jazz who remain unmarked by his influence to some extent.

Bromberg attests to this in his liner notes: “I wasn’t aware of how much he influenced me until I listened to him again after all these years.” LaFaro features 11 classic tunes associated with the many iterations of the Bill Evans Trio, including LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step”; Evans’ “Waltz for Debby” and “Blue in Green”; Miles Davis’s “Solar,” “Nardis” and “Milestones”; and such standards as “My Foolish Heart” and “What Is This Thing Called Love.” The outstanding program is rounded out by a Bromberg original, “Scotty’s Song,” featuring his overdubbed guitar-like piccolo bass styling, which contains a beguiling “April in Paris” quotation, and a lovely solo bass performance of “Danny Boy.”

Ably accompanying Bromberg are Tom Zink on piano and Charles Ruggiero on drums; both are impeccable, swinging and utterly in command of the idiom. Bromberg is too much his own man to expressly ape LaFaro’s countermelodic style, which featured high register flurries, flamenco-like strums and unusual syncopations. But his virtuosic solos and the bass-forward balance of this trio recording attests to LaFaro’s influence convincingly: Scotty completely redefined what it means to be a bassist in jazz, and, as Bromberg’s long career attests, he has clearly taken up the mantle.

The many highlights include the storming “Milestones,” the interplay between Bromberg and Ruggiero on “Gloria’s Step” and an evocative take on John Carisi’s “Israel.” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” featuring Bromberg’s prominent melodic statements, is also outstanding. While the bossa-flavored 4/4 take on “Waltz for Debby” is certainly interesting, it is unlikely to dislodge the original arrangement in any listener’s mind. Given how tightly swinging this trio is elsewhere, one could also wish that they had taken “Nardis” at a faster pace (though Bromberg’s solo is beautiful, indeed). These minor quibbles aside, LaFaro is a great pleasure from start to finish, a refreshing date with a lovely coherent program, beautifully recorded live in the studio.

LaFaro | Brian Bromberg with Tom Zink & Charles Ruggiero | Brian Bromberg

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