"Nick is a natural player. And lots of people can get into what he's doing, but he doesn't sound like any other musician."
Baritone saxophonist Nick Brignola's impressive talents have long vaulted into maturity. He can be readily accounted as a forerunner on stretching the range of the instrument. His particular contributions add to the lively potential of the baritone.
By no means a sophomore to the jazz scene Brignola, who was born in 1936 in Troy, New York, gained early attention when he was awarded the first scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston; he was touted as a teen-age phenomenon. It was in 1958 when I first caught him sitting in with Cal Tjader (along with Vince Guaraldi, Al McKibbon and Willie Bobo) at San Francisco's old Blackhawk. It was here, too, drummer Dick Berk and Brignola met as aspiring young players.
As a sideman and leader, Brignola's associates make up a long roster of jazz luminaries--Clark Terry, Wes Montgomery, Woody Herman, Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, Chet Baker among many others. However, It has been his alliance with trumpeter Ted Curson beginning in 1967 which has provided him with the most effective exposure.
Although the baritone is his instant identification, Brignola has masterful command of a veritable arsenal of a dozen different woodwind instruments. Aside from leading his own quartet around his home base in Troy, unsurprisingly he is an active clinician and teacher; he serves on the jazz education faculties of Albany Slate University, Flussell Sage College, Union College and the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock.
"When I start playing, swinging is automatic," Brignola notes, "and I like playing long interesting lines utilizing substitute chord changes." Brignola's solos are fiery and animated; his rich ideas pour out fluidly. "Nick's ideas are unending," Bill Watrous said. The character of his playing includes personalizing every note--whether the notes are part of a brief comment or of an elongated musical essay.
Reflecting his direct transference of Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond's tenet of emphatically strong melodic lines, Brignola is also a gifted melody player. Consequently, if you freeze a Brignola solo and review the pattern of notes, they are all essentially strings of melodies. Add to this, another Brignola asset--his strong rhythmic trademark, and we arrive at a communicative brand of swing.
Gary Smulyan--Woody Herman's current baritone player made a descriptive comment: "Nick doesn't just blow into his horn--he screams into it! And he should have been out front on the scene over ten years ago." Physically, the baritone is, of course, a large, imposing horn. Brignola has forged a resilient psyche allowing him to transcend this contest. "Everytime I pick up the big horn, I'm challenging it as it challenges me. I have to conquer it and prove that I can play it with force and conviction," Brignola says. This is precisely the way he plays it. This album represents as boldly fine an example of Nick Brignola's unraveling strengths as anything else he has on record.
--HERB WONG, from the liner notes,
L.A. Bound, Night Life.
Here is an article on Nick from Coda Magazine, written by Bob Rosenblum:
Coda Article, Pt. 1
Coda Article, Pt. 2
A selected discography of Nick Brignola albums.
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