[JPL] In His Memory, the Melodies Linger On

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 25 15:13:26 EDT 2007

June 23, 2007
Music Review | ‘We Remember Ruby’
In His Memory, the Melodies Linger On 
There were no fireworks on Wednesday night at the Kaye
Playhouse, where the JVC Jazz Festival presented “We
Remember Ruby,” a tribute to the trumpeter and
cornetist Ruby Braff. They weren’t 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 “adoration of the melody,” as
opposed to harmonic cleverness or instrumental
pyrotechnics. Working within those parameters, the
assembled musicians provided many extraordinary

Mr. Braff was a member of the bebop generation who had
little use for bebop, and some of Wednesday’s
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 “Them There Eyes” brought things
as close to a fever pitch as they got all evening, and
the cornetist Warren Vaché, whose resonant and
authoritative rendition of “America the Beautiful” (in
a duet with the pianist Dick Hyman) imbued the song
with a surprising emotional depth.

It wasn’t 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
“my teacher.” 

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 “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” 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


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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