Aggressive, hard-swinging, forceful, gutsy, intense -- those are the types of words that have typically been used to describe Jimmy Bruno's guitar playing. But on Maplewood Avenue, the Philadelphia-based hard bopper is surprisingly reserved and allows a more understated, contemplative, and decidedly lyrical side of himself to prevail. That is not to say that what transpires on this excellent 2007 release is totally unprecedented for Bruno, who has always been quite capable of playing lyrically and offered his share of memorable ballad performances when he was recording for Concord Jazz in the '90s and early 2000s. Nonetheless, the subtlety that dominates Maplewood Avenue will come as a surprise to those who expect a lot of intensity and aggression from Bruno. Another thing that is surprising about this 59-minute CD is the combination of instruments; drums are absent, and Bruno forms a cohesive, intimate trio with bassist Jeff Pedras and vibist Tony Miceli (who has performed around Philly with singer Lou Lanza as part of the Modern Rock Quartet, an intriguing, risk-taking group that specializes in jazz interpretations of rock songs). Miceli and Pedras, in fact, handle most of the writing on Maplewood Avenue and do a lot to shape the album's relaxed, easygoing mood. Saying that Bruno is more laid-back on Maplewood Avenue (even when he favors a fast tempo) is not saying that he has sacrificed anything emotionally; the Philadelphian still swings, and he still gets his emotional points across. This introspective outing is a definite surprise coming from Bruno -- and a pleasant surprise at that.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson