Monday, January 8, 2018

Jimmy Bruno - 1994 "Burnin'"

Burnin' is a most appropriate title for Jimmy Bruno's second album because much of the time, the guitarist is doing exactly that. A hard bopper with superb chops, Bruno loves to swing hard and fast, and he takes no prisoners on bop standards like Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Known for its insanely difficult chord changes, the latter has long been considered a test piece for jazz musicians; Bruno sails right through the tune at maximum speed without even blinking an eye. But while his technique is impressive, it wouldn't mean as much if Bruno (who forms a trio with bassist Craig Thomas and drummer Steve Holloway) didn't have so much soul to go with his massive chops. As intensely as he plays on the fast numbers, Bruno has no problem turning around and showing his lyrical side on Trane's "Central Park West" and the standard "That's All." Burnin' was recorded at Philly's legendary Sigma Sound, where so many great R&B sessions were done in the '70s.

Guitarists, take your seats! The first track on this collection "The Eternal Triangle" will blow you away! The things Mr. Bruno does here cannot be done. It seems that he has a few extra fingers on the left hand (maybe on the right, too)! His precision is incredible. I love the way he combines single-note soloing with chord riffs. You don't hear it done his way anywhere else. The music is bop at its best, in my opinion. The title track, "Burnin" is exactly that and the final extended cut, "That's All" leaves nothing on the table. The slower numbers are tastefully done, making this a satisfying meal all the way around. I highly recommend his "Polarity" album as well for the same reasons. Enjoy!

Just a killer cd from a deadly talented jazz guitarist. Jimmy turns up the heat on this one and his playing is always tasteful and creative. This is one must have desert island cd. Buy it, you won't be sorry.

Coltrane's "Giant Steps" is the best known cut here, but we get a few solo pieces and his great backing band on the rest. It's worthy of the best of the hard bop greats, like Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, but one thing that catches my ear is his similarity without being derivative of the late great Danny Gatton when that legend was playing jazz, such as his last studio album "Relentless" with Hammond B-3 extraordinaire Joey Francesco trading off mind blowing licks. Sadly, Gatton committed suicide in October 1994, and it's a bit eerie that Bruno recorded just a few years later "Like That", also playing alongside Defrancesco, who can also play a mean trumpet.
I don't know if Jimmy Bruno delves much into straight blues, but jazz is very very closely related, so it wouldn't be too difficult. Nor do I know if he digs the old rock and roll and touches of country that Gatton molded into his own unique style. But as far as jazz, Bruno may be the one player who shares the astonishing versatility Gatton possessed, and that's a very high compliment.
"Burnin" is a jazz guitarists' wet dream, and for those who value fast playing but need primers in how to do so with care and precision, and not just blow and rely on special effects, like delay, this shows us how it's done. His chord comping is second to none, too, as he plays lead figures in and out of complex chording as smoothly as anybody I've ever heard. It's truly great music that anybody can dig whether they play an instrument or not.

If you read the liner notes in this album there is a line that says something like "If you ever wondered how good jazz guitar can get, this is it". Nothing could be closer to the truth. Jimmy Bruno is not only the greatest living bebop guitarist, he ranks at the top of the all time list, along with Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Martino, and George Benson. And for sheer technical ability, he is above all of them.
His playing on this album at times is so overwhelming, it will have you questioning how any human being can play with such technique and precision. "Eternal Triangle" smolders all the way through. "One for Amos" and "Burnin" show how he can get down in the blues alley one moment and then just blow your mind in the next. Coltrane's "Giant Steps" is a challenge for any jazz musician, and few guitarists even attempt it. Bruno's version will just leave you speechless. And the albums final tune "That's All", says it all. Bruno's diatonic explorations at the speed of light are nothing short of jaw dropping. The thing that is so amazing about him is that he plays with such incredible speed and precision,and yet his playing drips with beautiful melodicism and pure soul. Can I give this 10 stars?

If you are a serious jazz fan, you've probably heard this many times. If you are a casual jazz fan, new to jazz, or god forbid, not familiar with the genre (especially guitar trio) or even burnt out on it, then this (or any Bruno recording) could very well change your life. *No Joke*. Rarely a day goes by that I haven't played some or all of this CD since I bought it over a year ago, and many of my previous favorite guitar CDs are now covered in dust. This is a fun recording, swingin' and boppin' with Jimmy's unmistakable restless energy and staggering precision, speed, and above all, melody. A mixture of standards, originals, and ripping hard-bop, there is even a high-voltage version of Coltrane's Giant Steps, which on any other CD might be the showcase - on "Burnin", it's just one of a dozen "Wow!"-inducing tunes. Do yourself a favor and buy this one now !

Jimmy Bruno's playing on this album is the most impressive I think I have ever heard. His technique and speed are remarkable. When I heard the first track for the first time, I sat in awe with my mouth open. The overall group is a little shaky at times, but Bruno's many melodic and rythmic ideas keep this album interesting. Great Buy. Especially if you like people who play fast AND melodic!

Track listing:

01 Eternal Triangle 5:41
02 Pastel 5:08
03 One For Amos 4:45
04 Love Is Here To Stay 5:00
05 Burnin' 4:33
06 Moonlight In Vermont 8:11
07 Central Park West 1:56
08 Giant Steps 5:37
09 Witchcraft 4:33
10 On The Sunny Side Of The Street 4:58
11 A Rose For Peg 4:34
12 That's All 7:18


Guitar – Jimmy Bruno
Bass – Craig Thomas
Drums – Steve Holloway



  2. Guitarmusic for an old guitarplayer and jazzfan ... thx
    Greetz from Germany :)

  3. Fantastic guitar player and great music. Thanks for sharing!

  4. A great player no doubt but surely the review overrates.