Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Since 1985, acclaimed bassist and producer Brian Bromberg has been confounding the music industry with an ever increasing catalogue of straight ahead and contemporary jazz offerings that are often driven by specific sounds and themes. His 2002 Wood was built around acoustic bass, Metal had electric bass as its centrepiece and with Jaco Bromberg celebrated the artistry of fretless bass pioneer Jaco Pastorius. He last tickled the sound buds with his 2007 Grammy nominated Downright Upright and is now back with the entirely different It Is What It Is.
In fact part of Bromberg’s magic is his totally predictable unpredictability and with this decidedly funky 13 track collection he not only features what turns out to be an absolutely killer horn section but also calls upon fellow A-listers George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Rick Braun to lend a hand.
It Is What It Is opens with the big band tinged title cut. It signposts the place where straight ahead jazz collides with that of a more contemporary leaning and is enhanced by the jazzy trumpet of Willie Murrillo, great keys from Lorber and top notch piano from the incomparable Rushen. In total Jeff Lorber contributes to six of the album’s tunes and he is again to the fore with the ultra funky ‘Mr Miller’ where Marienthal and Gary Meek on saxes blow up a proverbial storm. ‘Excuse Me’ is another horn drenched smoker to which Bromberg adds some seriously good bass and he uses ‘Slap Happy’ to provide a fittingly frenetic finale that finds the entire ensemble rocking on to a feisty conclusion.
Much of the conversation surrounding It Is What It Is will revolve around its two covers. The Quincy Jones composed theme from the hit television show ‘Sanford And Son’ is cram full of the fulsome horns that are such a feature of the entire CD and when Bromberg turns his attention to a stripped down version of the B52’s seminal ‘Love Shack’ he ramps up the rhythm in a way that makes it feel brand new. The melody that on first listen sounds like it is played on guitar is in fact Bromberg’s piccolo bass and he uses this instrument to equally good effect for the mid tempo ‘The Anticipation’ where Eric Marienthal is again superb and Dan Siegel on keys makes a significant contribution.
As reflective as its title suggests, ‘The Mirror’ proves to be a Bromberg master class in how great tenor bass should sound and another tune with a distinctly onomatopoeic quality is the big, swaggering and sometimes complex ‘Elephants On Ice Skates’. It delivers exactly what the listener expects while the beautifully understated ‘Heaven’ allows Bromberg ample opportunity to display his virtuosity.
Bromberg turns down the energy for the captivatingly melodic ‘Life’ and confirms, if indeed confirmation was needed, how effective the bass can be as a solo instrument. A complete joy from beginning to end it is among the album’s outstanding tracks and in this respect is in the good company of the excellent ‘Saul Goode’. Here a dangerously infectious horn riff coupled with Bromberg’s catchy playing proves to be a key factor and a further Secret Garden favourite is ‘Martinis At The Velvet Lounge?’ A hint of a Latin beat, more piccolo bass and splashes of flute from Meek all serve to engender a vibe that is wonderfully warm and truly special.
In fact the word special is one that could be applied to It Is What It Is in its entirety. Go out and buy it now.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.Posted by Denis Poole at October 10, 2009 11:06 PM