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C'est Magnifique

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Album Review

Ruby Braff's final studio recording sessions took place with musicians who played with the fire and inspiration required by the demanding cornetist, including familiar faces like guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and drummer Jim Gwinn, though guitarist John Pizzarelli, bassist Martin Pizzarelli, and pianist Ray Kennedy had never before worked with him. Braff's battle with emphysema during the last few years of his life required him to use a wheelchair to get around airports to save his breath for performing, but he is still a powerful presence on this session, around two months before his illness progressed to the point that he could no longer perform. Like any Braff-led recording, these dates include a selection of tried and true standards that he had played many times throughout his career, all played in swinging fashion and a timeless manner. The opener, "Lulu's Back in Town," is notable as he plays in short bursts, keeping the solos moving through the group to keep all the musicians on their toes, a pattern that follows in most of the selections. Braff had a knack for reviving forgotten chestnuts like "My Honey's Loving Arms" and "You're a Lucky Guy." "C'est Magnifique" is not one of Cole Porter's best-known works, but Braff's sassy cornet and the campy vocal chorus (which includes a mix of recording session attendees, vocalist/pianist Daryl Sherman, jazz critic Dan Morgenstern, jazz author Ross Firestone, and producer Rachel Domber among them — the last three likely making their recording debuts!) add to its appeal. John Pizzarelli's warm, friendly vocals are featured in both "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and "As Time Goes By," which brings up another Braff mandate: when the composer wrote an opening verse to set up a song, it shouldn't be omitted. This rewarding session closes the career of a marvelous cornetist who kept high standards throughout his career rather than bowing to the demands of record labels, casual jazz fans, or promoters; he is missed but will not be forgotten.

Biography

Born: March 16, 1927 in Boston, MA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the great swing/Dixieland cornetists, Ruby Braff went through long periods of his career unable to find work because his music was considered out-of-fashion, but his fortunes improved by the 1970s. A very expressive player who in later years liked to build...
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