REVIEW: Jimmy Bruno – Maplewood Avenue

Tired of overproduced and gimmicked-up music? Do you find yourself wanting to get back to the basics? Maybe listen to some jazz generated by talented pros getting together in a simple setting and doing their thing — and doing it well?

Do I have an album for you.

Maplewood Avenue, on the Affiliated Artists label, is about an hour of mellow sounds from jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno, accompanied by his buddies Tony Miceli on vibes and Jeff Pedraz on bass. It was recorded at Jimmy’s professionally equipped home studio and consists of nine pieces – all but one written by the artists themselves – and all recorded in one take without edits.

The Philly-based Bruno is a well-known and respected veteran of three decades in jazz, almost an institution. But never mind being considered an institution, Bruno actually founded a real one – The Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institution – as a teaching facility.

But we’re here to talk about the music. This is his 13th album as a leader and is actually something a little different for the artist, who has always been known for his hard bop background and fiery play. Here the intimate setting and style of play result in what’s been described as “chamber music for jazz”.

From the very first track – the title tune – there’s not much doubt that this is a softer side of Bruno, and it’s first class stuff. Bruno and his signature guitar (literally — he plays a Jimmy Bruno model Sadowsky) are mostly leading the way, but there’s major contributions from his buddies too. Pedraz purposely plays a lot of “slap’ bass to help make up for the lack of drums, and Miceli does just fine on the vibes.

Some of my favorites included “Easton Street Bossa,” with it’s soft Latin beat, and the one song not written by the guys, “Bach Sonata Trio,” (composed by guess who?). It’s a delightful, faster-paced piece with a baroque feel and helps provide a diversity to the mix of music on the album. Also helping provide a change of pace are a couple of nice ballads, the best probably the smooth and sweet “Song For Meg.”

Another nice listen was “Upstairs For Coffee,” with a rhythm and flow that almost allows you to visualize the guys taking a break to climb the stairs and crowd around the percolator.

Overall, a nice collection of soft sounds that will please a lot of listeners.

More sound samples available at artist’s website.

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