L.A. Bound

Nick Brignola

L.A. Bound
(Night Life)

L.A. Bound

Nick Brignola, bari sax; Bill Watrous, trombone; Dwight Dickerson, piano;
John Heard, bass; Dick Berk, drums.

1. Quicksilver (Silver) 6:25
2. Smada (Strayhorn) 6:30
3. Groovin' On Uranus (Brignola) 8:37
4. In A Mellow Tone (Ellington) 9:58
5. Spring Is Here (Rodgers-Hart) 5:43
6. Blue Bossa (Dorham) 7:57
Produced by JOHN L. BRECHLER
Cover Photo by JOE SHIMADA
Cover Design by DANIEL F. BEHER
Recording by JIM MOONEY
Recorded on October 17, 1979

Good hot blowing jam sessions are earmarked with plenty of freedom and serendipity. The musicians correspondingly revel with a party in their minds and music, swinging at a moment's notice. Horace Silver's challenging piece, "Quicksilver" swings open the doors to this album, roaring with a powerful version by the Nick Brignola quintet. The burners are switched on to maximum as the raging spirit of a jam session atmosphere pervades.

This record is also Brignola's reunion with Walrous and Berk--relationships which go back some years. "Bill Watrous and I both play modern music in a more traditional jazz sense," Brignola observes. "We are locked into each other's playing. We hooked up beveral years ago in my neck of New York state called the 'Tri-City Area,' playing in spots like the Ramada Inn in Schenectady and Shaker's Pen and Pencil--places where there was a steady jazz policy. Bill was also riding high with his Manhattan Wildlife Refuge big band. No matter what tune either of us would call, we'd jump right in--it was really smooth." A comparable quality of rapport is captured on this album. Likewise, their deep roots in bebop are clear. In reference to Brignola's musical determination and energy. Watrous described: "Nick is unflagging and his thrust is unbending. The record date was fun for us as we've had our act together for years."

Berk and Brignola have been acquainted for half of their lives and have played together in a variety of contexts. "Dick is one of the last of a dying bread--content to sit back and just swing! Some drummers run hot and cold, but Dick is absolutely dependable . . . you just know he's going to lay it right in there," Brignola commented enthusiastically about Berk's consistency. "Musically, Dick has the traits I admire in Jimmy Cobb--good time and no fancy frills or ego trips. His solos make sense, and with the right bassist--like John Heard--there is just no better swinging time!"

The very hip opening track, "Quicksilver," will take some ears out! Watrous and Brignola's straight ahead direction is knitted with intuitiveness and technical competencies. They play with awesome intensity and tasty, meaningful flair.

Billy Strayhorn's "Smada" (Adams spelled backward) was a completely new tune to the band. It was a tune suggested by producer John Brachler. I recall Ellington recording it at the end of 1959 for the Blues in Orbit album featuring Johnny Hodges and Ray Nance. "We gave it a little modern Ellingtonian jungle-like flavor," Brignola offered. The rhythm section rejoices in improvisation. Dig Berk's swinging drums lending just the right colors or propulsion at the right times. And Dwight Dickerson's piano is prominently crisp and musical.

"Groovin' on Uranus," an original Brignola blues in A flat is a relaxing finger-snapper. "I'm thinking Oscar Peterson on it," said Brignola, "because it has that hip groove he reaches so often."

Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" illustrates Brignola's expansive range--from the bowels of the horn to the upper register. And Watrous reaffirms why he is a poll-winning, world class player. The rhythm section cooks . . . simmering, bubbling and boiling, never losing touch of its ubiquitous sensitivity. Dickerson's piano has been called on by such fastidious players as Sergio Mendes, Bobby Hutcherson, Bola Sole and James Moody simply because he can deliver the messages. With Berk and Heard, the three show unvarying rhythmic sense.

Brignola's ability to be astutely effective in being laid back, shatters the image of his being pegged only as a high-energy player. His excellent control and melodic values are featured on a beautiful duet with Dickerson on "Spring Is Here." Little wonder by the way, that Anita O'day, Damita Jo and other vocalists have used Dickerson as their accompanist.

Kenny Dorham's familiar and attractive melodic contour of "Blue Bossa" carries out the closing tune. Brignola's baritone and liquid soprano plus Watrous' trombone, 'rewrite' and freshen the tune via their rich and lively conversational interplay.

A value judgment from Woody Herman adds a summary of interest. He has said on several occasions that besides the late Serge Chaloff (the vanguard bop baritonist of the early Herman "Heard" of the forties') he would cite Nick Brignola as "the other dynamite baritone player" he has really dug in the bands he has led the last forty some odd years.

As a super player of a super big horn, Nick Brignola has earned his admittance to the 'House of Jazz'. And as for the band on this album, Dick Berk's words capture its essence: "I have never heard Bill and Nick play so inspiringly. We just ate up this session, Man, this band ought to play together and go on the road!"

--HERB WONG, from the liner notes.

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