Jack Brokensha


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Jack Brokensha's longtime role as a Detroit studio owner and in-house performer on the vibraphone might have gone into distant memory banks if not for this beautiful effort from 1993 with help from some of the very best jazzmen the Motor City has offered. The extraordinary keyboardist and educator Matt Michaels, veteran bassist Dan Jordan (who has played with Brokensha over the better part of 40 years), and marvelous ex-Stan Kenton drummer Jerry McKenzie form a symbiotic bond with Brokensha on this collection of a few well-rendered standards and many originals penned by the pianist. As with his other efforts, Brokensha has a penchant for shimmering, at times minimally cheesy sounds as accented by electric piano, encouraging Michaels on occasion to step away from the grand acoustic piano and open up the case on the amplified version. With Boutique, the results are not as predictable as one might suspect -- in fact, the music blossoms and flowers in bright tonal colors and an occasional starburst. Of the standards, Johnny Mandel's "Seascape," Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's "Who Can I Turn To," and Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep for Me" are bunched in the middle of the CD, utilizing a delicate 3/4 gait, the fleet piano of Michaels inserted in easy swing, and Jordan's bass as the lead instrument, respectively. "Nostalgia" is typically lounge lizard, languid and very slow, but the ballad "Midnight Sun" is turned up a couple of notches in tempo, with vibes and the electric piano of Michaels urging it on. A most clever composer, Michaels modifies "Little Boy Blue" into "Little Bo Blues" in a basic and sweet simmering sauce parallel to Terry Gibbs. "Mello John" is a sprightly, spare bossa nova; the title track is similar to a Benny Golson composition; and "My Kay" has that hip, Vince Guaraldi-like bounce and wide-eyed child's wonder in playful waltz time, with the pianist featured for most of the track. The showstopper is the final selection, "Gerald 'n' Dean," where the band ups the interaction quotient as Brokensha's minimalist musings and kinetic energy spark the group on a bossa beat, a cut deserving multiple listenings. Boutique is a wonderful album, very deserving of its title, and proving once again that an identifiable Detroit jazz sound cannot be pigeonholed, but it is most assuredly all good.