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Tony's Tunes - the John Bunch Trio With Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart (Digital Only)

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Album Review

No one can accuse John Bunch of having a short career; born on December 1, 1921, the veteran pianist was 81 when he recorded Tony's Tunes for Chiaroscuro on May 12, 2003. What's the secret to Bunch's success? In addition to having impeccable chops and an inherent sense of swing and melody, Bunch is smart enough to realize that a musician needs to be true to himself. All these years, Bunch has been a swing-oriented pianist along the lines of Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole; that's his turf, and he has excelled by sticking with what he does best. This CD is called Tony's Tunes because all 14 of the songs are ones that Bunch played with Tony Bennett in the '60s, when he was the singer's music director — familiar gems that range from "Street of Dreams" and Harold Arlen's "I've Got the World on a String" to Neal Hefti's "Girl Talk." Tony's Tunes is a tribute to Bennett, but it's a tribute on Bunch's own pianistic terms; there are no vocals at all, and Bunch maintains an improviser's mindset whether he is interpreting "Chicago" (that toddlin' town!) or "Put On a Happy Face." When Chiaroscuro president Hank O'Neal (who produced this release) first came up with the idea for Tony's Tunes, he seemed to envision an album of unaccompanied solo piano. But Tony's Tunes ended up being a trio session — not a traditional piano trio (piano, bass, and drums), but a drummer-less trio uniting Bunch with frequent companions Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar) and Jay Leonhart (bass). That piano/guitar/bass format is, of course, the same format that the Nat King Cole Trio favored in the '30s and '40s, and it's a format that works pleasingly well for Bunch throughout this fine CD.


Born: 01 December 1921 in Tipton, IN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

John Bunch had a long and distinguished career even if his abilities as an accompanist and supportive player sometimes led to him being taken for granted. He started on piano when he was 11 and within a year was playing in local clubs. Bunch, a flexible pianist who was most inspired by Teddy Wilson, generally played locally until working with the big bands of Woody Herman (1956-1957), Benny Goodman, and Maynard Ferguson (1958) when he was already in his mid-thirties. Bunch worked in the small groups...
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