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Downright Upright by Brian Bromberg

By releasing a string of CD’s on his co-owned Artistry Music label, Brian Bromberg has called overdue attention not just to his own superb musicianship, but also to the potential of the bass as a lead instrument in numerous stylistic environments. Bromberg has covered in just a few short years a range from a tribute to the pioneering Jaco Pastorius to traditional trio configurations that, of course, highlight Bromberg’s virtuosic command of his instrument. Now on Downright Upright, Bromberg has recruited several of his friends and musical associates to create a fuller sound with horns for soulfulness and accessibility and fun.

From the opening number "Cantaloupe Island," Bromberg’s direction is clear as he internalizes the funk of composer Herbie Hancock’s famous tune. Even so, he expands it to include soulful solos from trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Kirk Whalum. With its famous vamp and its infectious beat, "Cantaloupe Island" provides the material for Bromberg to stretch out into elaboration upon the more familiar versions. The same thing happens on Les McCann and Eddie Harris’ "Cold Duck Time," when Boney James delivers a hand-clapping performance infused with the song’s always irresistible spirit.

The fact that Bromberg records Downright Upright with musicians who have gained popularity on smooth jazz radio stations indicates that this time he wants to record music with broad popular appeal even as the jazz enthusiasts still can appreciate the technical complexity of Bromberg’s playing. The stop-and-start melody of Dave Grusin’s "Serengeti Walk" proves the point as Bromberg apparently effortlessly negotiates the serpentine lines of his own solo. In addition, the piece teams Bromberg with guitarist Lee Ritenour again after their recent concert tour, as well as Bromberg’s participation on Ritenour’s album Smoke ‘N Mirrors. With sly humor, Bromberg has either chosen tunes like "Chameleon" or named original pieces like "Shag Carpet" that recall the feel-good funkiness of the late 60s and early 70s, all of which benefit from a strong bass presence in their execution. "The Hacha Cha Cha" proceeds from the bass melody that Bromberg sets up on the first chorus, Jeff Lorber’s piano, in a switching of roles, backing up the bass.

Already released in Japan, Downright Upright features music to appeal to a broad audience. Yet it still provides a platform for Brian Bromberg to impress listeners with his command of the bass and his ability to entrance audiences.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Brian Bromberg
  • CD Title: Downright Upright
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Artistry Music
  • Tracks: Cantaloupe Island, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Cold Duck Time, Sunday Mornin’, The Hacha Cha Cha, Chameleon, Serengeti Walk, Leisure Suit, Slow Burn, Shag Carpet
  • Musicians: Brian Bromberg (upright bass, piccolo bass); Rick Braun (trumpet, flugelhorn); Gary Meek, Kirk Whalum, Boney James (tenor saxophone); George Duke, Jeff Lorber (piano); Gannin Arnold, Lee Ritenour (guitar); Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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