Keyboardist Bruce Torff travels 'Down The Line' on New Summit Records Release (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Feb 10, 2016 02:13 PM EST
Bruce Torff Keyboardist/Composer Bruce Torff (Photo : courtesy Mouthpiece Music)

In the follow-up to his promising 2013 Look Again, keyboardist/composer Bruce Torff's Down The Line (Summit Records) is a pleasant delight, filled with scintillating solos, Brazilian-inspired rhythmic tics, syncopated funk, spacey balladry and the wistful final trumpet tones of Lew Soloff who suffered a fatal heart attack at 71 just weeks after recording his parts.

Coincidently, "Memoriam" isn't for Soloff. It's for a childhood friend of Torff's who died at 50 in a plane crash. Saxophonist Joel Frahm lends his velvet tone to the ethereal "Wave Of Silence" and the futuristic "Enceladus." Guitarist Pete McCann drives the title track over the speed limit and the whole quintet explodes into a long grooooooooove on "Tribal Function."

'Down The Line' by Bruce Torff
(Photo : courtesy Summit Records)
'Down The Line' by Bruce Torff

Soloff was a former Blood Sweat & Tears rock star before he became part of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis and the trumpet voice of the Mingus Big Band. He also recorded and performed with the late Miles Davis producer Gil Evans, becoming arguably the finest interpreter of those classic Davis/Evans collaborations, Porgy And Bess (1959) and Sketches Of Spain (1960), totally revitalizing and adding to the original Miles trumpet parts for the ears of those generations too young to have experienced the original. In fact, Down The Line righteously ends with Soloff fading into the sunset like a cinematic cowboy hero on the last notes of the closing track, "Early Sunday," a wistful reminder of his passing.

Ten out of 11 tracks hit home hard (the only snooze-fest being the lite-jazz "Beginning To End" which sounds like Grover Washington, Jr. on too many painkillers). Whoever invented lite-jazz anyway?

Drummer Ben Wittman (ex-Sting) keeps things brisk and moving, working well with Torff's keyboard bass notes. The lack of a bass player is hardly noticed.

Torff, from Chicago, is smart: two Master's degrees and a Harvard doctorate is only the tip of this Hofstra professor's resume. He's been published within academia no less than 80 times, most notably for his book, Understanding and Teaching the Intuitive Mind.

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TagsBruce Torff, REVIEW, Summit Records, Lew Soloff

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