Saturday, October 8, 2011

By Request

As a protege of George Wein, Ruby Braff was a frequent attraction at the Newport Jazz Festival. Here he is on stage in 1956 blowing trad with Chicagoan Bud Freeman. Below, he waits for his moment before the mic, with Wein at the piano. Above photo by Terry Martin
As the host of a jazz radio program, I occasionally get calls from listeners requesting to hear a particular artist or tune. As a rule, I don't play requests because they are often repeats of tunes or artists I've already featured. I love the hits, but there's only so many times I can spin "Take Five" or "Kind of Blue."

But in response to my last posting, visitor Baron asked if I had any Ruby Braff on Jazztone. When I responded in the affirmative, he asked that I upload a copy here. So ... I guess on do take requests online. With a library of about 10,000 recordings to choose from, it's likely that I have something you'd like to hear. Let me know.

So here's Ruby. In my younger days, I didn't much care for the cornetist from Boston. It seemed inconceivable to me that a horn player in the modern era could look backward for inspiration. But now I know better – Mr. Braff, though not progressive by any measure, was a paragon of taste and swing. And he really knew the tradition.

This recording is not a reissue of a prior LP as so many of the Jazztones were. Jazztone produced this session expressly for its club members, and it was the first time that Ruby Braff was allowed to choose his own sidemen and tunes. The results are excellent, with fellow Bostonian Sam Margolis the standout. His Lester-inspired tenor really has depth here – a pleasant surprise as I was previously unfamiliar with his work. Billy Byers, a skilled composer, arranger and bebop soloist, fits the traditional style so well you'd never know he regularly worked with enfants like Phil Woods and Hal McKusick. Papa Jo is, of course, a swinging delight.

As always, these files were ripped from the actual LP, with only a minor cleaning up of the sound.

Swinging with Ruby Braff, Jazztone J-1210
Ruby Braff, tp; Sam Margolis, ts; Billy Byers, tbn; Marty Napoleon, p; Milt Hinton, b; Jo Jones, d.
New York, NY; April 25, 1955

1. Only a Blues
2. I'll Never Be the Same
3. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
4. Deep River
5. I'm Shooting High
6. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
7. Lonesome Road
8. 'Deed I Do
9. Flakey
10. Love Me or Leave Me

Find it here:


  1. Thank you Dave ... I've a soft spot for the Jazztone series ... Baron

    It seems to me that the cover used on many of the JT lps captures Ruby Braff too.

    Your following is small at this moment judging by the comments. Probable reason being a fledgling blog. I do hope the comments increase.

  2. Thank you. Permission to post on my blog?

  3. I agree that it's Ruby on those JT covers -- good eye Baron. I know the blog doesn't get much traffic yet, but that's fine with me. Folks will find it eventually. Jazzman, it's fine if you want to post this entry on your blog. Enjoy!

  4. Dave - I'm sad to say the Jazzman has passed away. I thank you for the generosity shown regarding this Braff session and I hope some of the Jazzman's friends will drop by here. Baron

  5. Baron -- I very sorry to hear that. Was he an elderly jazz lover, or was this the result of some terrible mishap (I hope not)? My best to his family and loved ones. We can't afford to lose jazz enthusiasts -- there are too few of us already!

  6. David - The Jazzman was 79.

  7. Dave - thanks for the unusual offerings, and thanks too for the insightful commentary. I'm anxious to hear this, though I'm not always that interested in retro session.

    BTW, Braff was notoriously intemperate. George Wein was also a so-so pianist. Wein organized a live session, invited Braff. After the first number, where Wein apaprently struggled with the changes, Braff turned to him and said "Get off the *%^*&)$ stage." Wein responded "But it's my gig, Ruby!" Braff said "I don't give a f/f, your playing sucks, get lost." Wein quickly left and someone else finished the set.

    1. Braff was a very distinctive player, to my ear anyway. The fact that he lived in a modern world while employing a very accomplished trad approach makes him interesting. Love your anecdote about Wein. I can sympathize with his wanting to get up and play, but Ruby was right to give him the heave-ho. George must have loved him, though, because he sure gave Braff a lot of work! I didn't know Ruby was a tippler either. Makes sense -- the music has a long-standing tradition of over-indulging ...