Brian Bromberg

(Be Squared Productions)

Bassist Brian Bromberg doesn’t channel Scott LaFaro’s sound on his hat-tip to the bass innovator, who died at age 25 in 1961. Both players are virtuosi, but LaFaro broke new ground by supplying a contrapuntal voice even while comping; on LaFaro, Bromberg saves his daredevilry for the solos and walks the bass through its accompaniment passages. The tribute comes by way of Bromberg, like LaFaro, being indefatigably himself on the titan’s most familiar repertoire.

“Milestones,” for example, heard on Bill Evans’s Waltz For Debby (Bromberg concentrates on LaFaro’s work in Evans’ trio), finds LaFaro right alongside the pianist and running through a stream of melodic patterns, often in his middle and high registers, capped by a solo that scans like a poetry reading. On the same tune, Bromberg opens with a pretty fill, then backs up pointedly behind pianist Tom Zink. Drummer Charles Ruggiero locks in with him, together delivering an unobtrusive but consistently swinging infrastructure that keeps the bass at the bottom until his middle-register solo (whose cadences are closer to scat singing than poetry).

Don’t be confused into thinking that Bromberg is resolutely a background player. Indeed, he takes the lead on most of the heads — to particularly thrilling effect on “Alice In Wonderland” and “Blue In Green” — and even delivers a pathos-laden solo performance of “Danny Boy.” Even these, though, are remarkably ego-less: They give the performance what it needs. But it says something that on LaFaro’s composition “Gloria’s Step,” he yields center stage to Zink and gives his own solo over to the song’s rhythm. Just as LaFaro served an (influential, but idiosyncratic) vision of his instrument, so does Bromberg on LaFaro. It’s just that his is a “make your case, then support” kind of vision, and he plays it beautifully.

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