While Tucson-born, Los Angeles-based Brian Bromberg has been equally conversant and downright virtuosic on both electric and upright basses, he sticks strictly to the latter on his latest offering, LaFaro. A tribute to the legendary jazz bassist whose revolutionary contributions to the classic Bill Evans Trio still reverberate to this day, Bromberg’s 28th as a leader shows him in an unadulterated swinging trio setting in the company of pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero. LaFaro will be released on April 5 in CD, LP and digital formats on Bromberg’s own Be Squared Productions label.
Following sideman stints with pianist/vibraphonist Victor Feldman and pianist Hampton Hawes, trumpeter Chet Baker and bandleader Stan Kenton, Scott LaFaro joined the Bill Evans Trio in 1959 and for the next two years broke new ground on the instrument, developing a counter-melodic style of accompaniment rather than playing traditional walking basslines. And his virtuosity as a soloist unmatched by any of his contemporaries. Evans, LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian were committed to the idea of three equal voices in the trio, working together for a singular musical idea and often without any musician explicitly keeping time. Perhaps their most famous recordings were two albums recorded in June of 1961 — Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. LaFaro died tragically in an automobile accident a month later, on July 5, 1961, in Seneca, New York at the tender age of 25.
Bromberg’s heartfelt homage to the legendary bassist includes swinging interpretations of three Miles Davis classics (“Solar,” “Milestones,” “Nardis”) along with a bossa flavored reading of the Evans classic “Waltz for Debby” and a tender rendering of the beautiful ballad that Evans co-wrote with Miles Davis, “Blue in Green,” all showcasing his own considerable skills as a melodic improviser and unparalleled timekeeper on the upright bass. The trio also tackles LaFaro’s intricate “Gloria’s Step” and Johnny Carisi’s “Israel,” while Bromberg carries the melody and solos in lyrical fashion on the gentle ballad “My Foolish Heart.”
The bassist delivers a virtuosic performance on an unaccompanied rendition of “Danny Boy,” an old English tune set to the traditional Irish melody of “Londonderry Air” and a number often played by the Bill Evans Trio. And for sheer burn, you can’t beat the trio’s uptempo swinging rendition of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?” The lone original on LaFaro is “Scotty’s Song,” which opens with some extended blues-drenched solo bass before the trio heads into mellow Wes Montgomery territory, with Bromberg himself exhibiting some nice octaves, chord melody playing and facile single note soloing on his piccolo electric bass.
In his liner notes to LaFaro, Bromberg wrote: “I hope you can appreciate the spirit in this recording and the respect I have for Scott LaFaro’s enormous contribution to jazz bass playing and jazz music in general. Thank you, Scotty, for paving the way and opening the door for the rest of us who have dedicated our lives to being a jazz bassist.”
About Brian Bromberg
An in-demand L.A. session musician and valued sideman to everyone from Stan Getz to Dave Grusin, Billy Cobham, Michael Bublé, Diana Krall and countless others, Bromberg’s solo career began in 1986 with the release of his smooth jazz debut, A New Day. Subsequent releases had him embracing his straight-ahead jazz roots (1991’s It’s About Time: The Acoustic Project, with special guests Freddie Hubbard and Ernie Watts) while further exploring the electric bass in a more contemporary realm (1993’s Brian Bromberg, featuring an all-star cast of Everette Harp, Ivan Lins, Jeff Lorber, Lee Ritenour and Kirk Whalum). His first acoustic jazz trio recording came in 2002 with Wood and that same year he released the audacious Jaco, a tribute to legendary electric bassist Jaco Pastorius as a commemoration of his 50th birthday. Other albums like 2005’s rock-fueled Metal, 2006’s Wood II, 2007’s Grammy-nominated Downright Upright, 2007’s bossa nova tribute, In the Spirit of Jobim, 2009’s funky Is What It Is and 2010’s shred-heavy Bromberg Plays Hendrix further showcased the bassist’s remarkable versatility and sheer command of his instruments. He continued that eclectic streak with his 2011 solo bass outing, Hands, 2012’s wide-ranging Compared To That, 2015’s classically-informed A Bass Odyssey, 2016’s swinging Full Circle, 2018’s smooth jazz-oriented Thicker Than Water, 2020’s nostalgic holiday album Celebrate Me Home, his 2021 pandemic paean, A Little Driving Music, and 2023’s soulful and alluring The Magic of Moonlight.