A marvelously eloquent, always mellifluous player, Reuben 'Ruby' Braff (born Boston, Mass., 1927) is something of throwback to jazz of pre - World War II except that where Braff is concerned his music sounds fresh and despite strong influences is Armstrong, Berigan, Hackett, James, he does not slavishly copy any of the great trumpeters / cornettists of the past. A self - taught musician, Braff has tended to concentrate almost exclusively on the warmer sound of the cornet (like, for example, Nat Adderly). His career has seen its shape of ups and downs - the latter occurring because of a peculiar situation in the 1950s whereby and up - and - coming player like Braff was unable to find sufficient work because his style was considered out of date. Even in the 'down' days, however, Braff managed to attract the attention of record labels and producers; his not inconsiderable discography thus far gives ample evidence that Braff has been a model of consistency, in various, mostly 'mainstream', settings.
Braff first came into the notice of record buyers through an appearance as sideman on a 1953 Vic Dickenson record date (Vic Dickenson Showcase/The Essential Vic Dickenson). He tended to steal solo limelight from long established veterans like Dickenson, Ed Hall, and Sir Charles Thompson. His ballad - playing I Cover The Waterfront was exquisite, sensitive; his blowing on faster items, Jeepers Creepers, Keepin' Out Mischief Now was rhythmically subtle, with Braff exhibiting commendable controlled power, even at moments of climax. Whatever the mood, his playing maintained an impressive sense of logicality and lyricism that showed his obvious debt to Hackett. Further exposure - and in many ways a deeper insight into Braff's technique and mode of self - expression - came the following year when he appeared at one - third of Mel Powell Trio (Thigamagig), then, with a tribute to Billie Holiday (Holiday In Braff) followed by an absolutely delightful cornet - piano date with Ellis Larkins (Two By Two) , and a reunion date with Dickenson, this time with Braff as a leader (The Ruby Braff Special). in this kind of basically mainstream company, Braff usually is to be heard at his most relaxed, which probably explains why his participation in George Wein's touring Newport All Star packages (Tribute To Duke, The Newport All Stars and Midnight Concert In Paris) has usually found him operating at or near to his very best. Much the same can be said with regard to his live appearance at the diner owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Sutton.
In the '70s, Braff's unique brand of unruffled elegance was gorgeously showcased in the chamber setting of the Ruby Braff - George Barnes Quartet - a combo fully operational between 1973 - 75. With Braff providing the basic spark for the group, ably assisted by guitarist Barnes, plus rhythm guitar and bass, the cornettist had ample opportunity to demonstrate, once again, his dexterity and, in particular, jus how effective it can be in utilizing an essentially extrovert instrument sotto voce and still produces music that is of exceptional quality. Indeed, the only complaint was that there were times when the presence of a drummer and/or another horn might have injected more fire into proceedings. Certainly, it is true to say that Ruby Braff operates at a more emotionally satisfying level in more buoyant surroundings. Rather like his 1967 recording date with Buddy Tate, George Wein et al (Hear Me Talkin') or, in more recent, post Braff - Barnes times, in company with such as Jimmie Rowles, Bucky Pizzarelli and Vic Dicekneson (Them There Eyes).