Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Art Blakey and Ruby Braff jazz up the holiday season

I know it's been a pretty fallow season for releases- the sheer amount of stuff coming out has dropped way down for one thing. I did find three nice Christmas albums though, which I wrote about at Time Out plus there were two fine jazz reissues that just came out today, both on the Mosaic Select label.

Originally released holiday time 40-plus tears ago, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Hard Bop is just that and a pretty forthright, gutsy title to boot. This represents the second edition of the band but this group included the great Jackie McLean on alto sax and he is absolutely magical here, blowing one sweet passage after another. Not that the leader was a slouch on his kit (he was one of the great ones) but I'd rank JM as the star of the show.

Trumpeter Ruby Braff was much more of a traditionalist, heaped in the swing sound. Coming out a year after Blakey's set ('57), his Hi Fi Salute to Bunny is a joyous, fun affair, tipping his hat to trumpeter Bunny Berigan. Other noted vets that RCA Victor hand-picked for this tribute include Pee Wee Russell, who trades off leads and solos with Braff. Listen to them go hot on "Smiling at Trouble" and then cool down nice and sweet on "I Can't Get Started." Also, you gotta love the "hi fi" signifier in the title (hey, it was a big deal for stereo buffs back then).


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