And yet, Gary put cancer to flight in 2016 and has come back with a determination and an attitude that makes you just love the guy. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s talented, and he knows how to put a dynamite album and a great team together, as this Café Pacific Records album proves mightily.
He’s got the father and son pianists Terry and Jamieson Trotter handling three and eight tunes, respectively. Jamieson arranged all 11 songs on the CD. Producer extraordinaire Barbara Brighton brought along Bob Sheppard on Tenor Saxophone and Flute, Pat Kelley and Larry Koonse on Guitar, Gabe Davis on Bass, and Christian Euman and Conor Malloy on Drums. This crew has got the goods.
Gabe Davis’ bass is the first thing you hear on Moonlight. He introduces the great John Lennon Beatles tune, Day Tripper. The first thing you learn is to forget what you know about each piece because Gary is going to sing the tune his way, the way he feels it. And it works. The artists with him are going to do the same.
The bass and Jamieson Trotter’s piano set a cool pace for Day Tripper. Christian Euman adds a great drum bit and Bob Sheppard’s tenor sax make you think that Lennon had written this as a Jazz piece.
Billy Reid and Buddy Kaye’s I’ll Close My Eyes is Larry Koonse’s first appearance on guitar. I enjoy the soft swing of Jamieson Trotter, Gabe Davis, and Conor Malloy behind Brumburgh’s cool intonations. Jamieson has a cool and quirky piano lead in the middle that is well worth a listen. Koonse nails his solo, as always.
Miles Davis’ Dig gets paired with Sweet Georgia Brown and Christian Euman’s drumming is spot-on. Jamieson Trotter on piano and Bob Sheppard on sax put on a sweet display as Gabe Davis pushes them on bass. This is a fun romp.
Wichita Lineman by Jimmy Webb is another fine surprise. I loved Davis’ strumming on the bass to open the song that gives the great illusion of wind though the wires. What a cool treatment of a classic number. Gary delivers the lines with sincerity and conviction.
The title track (Williams/Bergman/Bergman) is a great piece for the quintet of Terry Trotter, Davis, Euman, Sheppard, and Pat Kelley (guitar). Moonlight is beautifully delivered by Brumburgh. This is Terry Trotter’s first appearance on the album—in fact, this is the first album that he and Jamieson appear on together.
Perhaps it is his training in drama, but Gary is completely believable in the way he delivers the songs he has chosen. And he has chosen well. From the cool Moonlight, he slides into Sting’s Heavy Cloud No Rain with his sardonic treatment and Pat Kelley’s bluesy guitar and then into Michael Franks’ wittily mundane subjects in Eggplant.
Not done with reimagining pop stars’ classics, Brumburgh’s takes on the Supremes’ My World is Empty Without You. The trio of Jamieson Trotter, Davis and Malloy are brilliant in their haunting rendering of the Motown hit. Again, Gary’s delivery can only be called authentic and believable. Jamieson’s piano and Gary’s vocals create a vivid depiction of hollowness. Stunning.
Just a Little Lovin’ was the huge hit by Dusty Springfield. Larry Koonse gets his hands on this one and offers up a beauty of an acoustic guitar solo. Amazingly, Gary and the guys make it sound contemporary but somehow also manage to keep that 1968 feel.
Kenny Rankin’s Haven’t We Met has Gary in duet with Gail Pettis, backed by the trio of Jamieson, Davis and Malloy. Davis’ bass solo is a beauty that gives way to Jamieson and Malloy in a tight duet. Gary and Gail are stellar together.
The album concludes with the Irving Berlin standard What’ll I Do. Terry Trotter’s piano into is sweet and sad, as the song itself is. Gary offers a lush version of the song done so often and so well by so many. Still, Gary makes the song worth hearing all over (and over) again. And again, so authentic.
Brumburgh’s voice is warm and emotion-filled, completely immersed in the feel of the song and, as stated over and over, so very believable.
Thank the heavens for Gary Brumburgh’s healing and recovery. We will get to hear more of him.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl