Brian Bromberg – LaFaro (ENG review)

Brian Bromberg -LaFaro

By constantly hearing him ‘slap’ on his electric basses, one could almost forget that Brian Bromberg is also an excellent double bassist. This time, it’s a brilliant and vibrant tribute to the double bassist Scott LaFaro, who passed away far too soon at the age of 25, leaving behind a rich body of work. I’ll let you take a moment to listen to this beautiful presentation of LaFaro in Bill Evans’ trio. It was at Birdland in New York in 1960.

This is Bromberg’s 28th album as a leader, showcasing him in a swinging and unadulterated trio setting alongside pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero. An album in which Brian Bromberg demonstrates his passion for this musician, with impeccable interpretation and sumptuous arrangements. After stints as a sideman with pianist/vibraphonist Victor Feldman, pianist Hampton Hawes, trumpeter Chet Baker, and bandleader Stan Kenton, Scott LaFaro joined the Bill Evans Trio in 1959 and, over the next two years, forged new paths on the instrument, developing a counter-melodic accompanying style rather than playing traditional bass lines. His unmatched virtuosity as a soloist set him apart from his contemporaries. Evans, LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian were committed to the idea of three equal voices in the trio, working together towards a singular musical concept and often without any musician explicitly keeping time. Perhaps their most famous recordings are the two albums cut in June 1961 – “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” and “Waltz for Debby”. LaFaro tragically passed away in a car accident a month later, on July 5, 1961, in Seneca, New York, at the tender age of 25.

Brian Bromberg delves into various collaborations or presumed collaborations of LaFaro, Bill Evans of course, but also Miles Davis, Carisi, a title penned by Bromberg himself, “Scotty’s Song,” where Brian is deeply inspired by LaFaro’s playing, and a track by LaFaro, “Gloria’s Step,” resolutely sumptuous!
Though Scott LaFaro’s career is deeply intertwined with Bill Evans’, and though LaFaro’s career was tragically short, many things are said through word of mouth, the most plausible being a collaboration with Miles Davis that was in progress, which was interrupted by LaFaro’s fatal road accident, exhausted from work, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car…

I’ll conclude with Brian Bromberg’s explanations: “This album is a tribute to the great bassist Scott LaFaro. The concept for this album was born out of the passionate vision of my dear friend Susumu Morikawa from King Records in Japan. Susumu came to me with the idea of recording an album in tribute to Scott LaFaro. At first, I wasn’t sure about doing it because Scott LaFaro was one of the most remarkable bassists in the jazz world. His brilliance and inventiveness on the bass were years ahead of his time. He was doing things on the bass in the 1950s and early 1960s that had never been heard before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or was ready to record this album, as the jazz bass world would seriously judge me and wonder why I was doing this project. But, upon listening again to Scott with the Bill Evans Trio, I realized how much Scott LaFaro had influenced me and my playing. I wasn’t aware of the extent of his influence on me until I listened again after all these years. It was only then that I agreed to do this project. The music on this recording includes some of the most popular songs recorded by the Bill Evans Trio, as well as an original song by Scott and a song I wrote for this project. I didn’t try to imitate Scott LaFaro in any way on this recording. How could I, and more importantly, why would I? We recorded 14 songs in two days of live recording. We did a few takes of each song and then moved on to the next. It was a rewarding experience recording all these classic jazz standards and just following where the music took us. Scott LaFaro was brilliant, creative, inventive, barrier-breaking, and one of the few who changed the way the bass instrument is played in jazz. It still surprises me that I was only a year old when Scott was tragically killed in a car accident on his way home from a gig. I hope you can feel the spirit of this recording and the respect I have for Scott LaFaro’s enormous contribution to jazz bass and jazz in general. Thank you, Scotty, for paving the way and the door for all of us who have dedicated our lives to being jazz bassists. I hope you enjoy this album and that it brings a smile to your face up in heaven.

There are also these few lines from Scott LaFaro’s sister: “The thought of this recording being done brought a smile to my face. Upon hearing it — not just the first time— but several times over – it, of course, evoked many emotions: recalling our very close relationship from the time Scotty first saw me, pointed at me and said “sister”. Over all the years, he was my hero, my best friend, and we were each other’s confidant. During his time with Bill Evans he was working on achieving a colloquy with fellow musicians as well as listeners but apparently still had not achieved his goal…. and on his last visit home… after taking a phone call he said to me with a frown on his face, “Nobody is ever going to get me. Maybe I should chuck it all and go into electronics.” Were he to hear this album of Brian’s, I think Scotty would finally be smiling. I’m always hesitant to comment on music or musicianship, as my comprehension of such things is nowhere near the level of Scotty or my father (as they often commented). That said, Brian clearly “gets” where Scotty was going, and (at least to my non-musician’s ear) his sound, inventiveness, and heart is taking the bass to new frontiers that Scotty may have imagined, but never had a chance to visit.We lost Scotty’s voice much too soon, But with this recording, the vision lives on.” – Helene LaFaro Fernandez, June 21.

What more can be said? A must-have? Yes of course!

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, March 15th 2024


To buy this album