Ruby Braff / Dick Hyman

Fireworks

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This 1983 concert performance at the New School in New York City by cornet player Ruby Braff and pianist Dick Hyman is one where fortune smiled on the two swing era-styled jazz musicians. Performing as a duet since 1975, calling tunes here on-stage, with no P.A. system and nothing but a cassette player to document the performance, Braff and Hyman winged it with a fairly satisfying result. The tape changed hands several times before being mastered and turned into this original Inner City LP, now available on CD. A program consisting mainly of Gershwin tunes, the honesty and mutual trust between these great traditional jazz masters clearly shines through, even if the sound is a bit muffled. Well-known songs like "Somebody Loves Me," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," and "Lady Be Good" are all masterfully done, respectively with luscious interplay and Braff stepping up in pronounced volume levels, working on an easygoing chamber level, or in the case of the cornetist, using vocal-type, chatty techniques that are his signature sound. Hyman is really the ultimate versatile jazz piano genius in his ability to support, supplant, or supercharge these tunes. He hops up the remarkably hot "High Society" in stride fashion, goes deep in post-worry blues during the simple and easy "Sugar," and plays solo in various keys, mixed pacings, phrasings, and tempos on the Gershwin evergreen "Liza" which could never sound staid or stale in his hands. A five-minute version of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" is adapted and arranged into a form reminiscent of "St. Louis Blues" with Braff's chortling and guffawing horn again striking a singing pose. Digitally cleaned up, Fireworks is an improvement on the vinyl version, and is a good reminder of how swing was still valid 50 years after the fact, and in very good hands via Braff and Hyman.

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