Dale Bruning: A Tribute To Jim Hall

Bill Frisell and Ron Miles were among the sextet that paid tribute to the late guitarist in a September 2014 concert now available on video

The Dale Bruning Sextet in 2014. Photo by Jude Hibler

Guitarist Dale Bruning has collaborated often with writer/producer Jude Hibler, presenting concerts at Denver’s Dazzle Jazz Club, the setting for this concert filmed in 2014. Here, tribute is paid to fellow guitarist Jim Hall, who had died only months before.

The songs reflect Hall’s taste, including some from the Great American Songbook: Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s All The Things You Are, Thanks For The Memory by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin. To all of these, Bruning brings his deep understanding of the intentions of the composers and, like all jazz musicians, it is clear that although the lyrics are not heard, they are understood and always in mind.

On this occasion, Bruning’s fellow instrumentalists include special guest guitarist Bill Frisell. The two men are very much attuned to one another, unsurprisingly so given their strong connection, which stretches back over many decades.

As a very young man, Dale Bruning was a gifted multi-instrumentalist, settling on guitar and becoming a respected teacher while in his mid-20s. This was in the early 1960s and through the following decades he has continued to teach and mentor many now established guitarists.

Also in the 1960s, Bruning became resident in Denver and one result of his choosing to remain there was that his reputation was slow in spreading internationally. Indeed, it was not until the late 1990s that he began to receive his due, thanks to a string of critically acclaimed recordings and especially publication of his Jazz Guitar Instruction Book Series. Interestingly, and relevant here, among his early students was Bill Frisell, now a leading all-round guitarist whose reputation extends through pop, country and classical genres, while in jazz he ranges from traditional to free, in the latter area being a regular collaborator with many of the artists associated with ECM Records.

The other instrumentalists heard here, cornetist Ron Miles, trombonist Mark Patterson, bassist Mark Simon and drummer Paul Romaine, have worked often with Bruning and all have strong connections to the Denver music scene as players, composers and teachers. Miles (who died in March 2022) was a member of Frisell’s late 1990s quartet and they also worked together in the early 2000s.

With relaxed tempos and an easygoing swing throughout, the rapport shared by these musicians, their interplay and exchange of ideas is a musical delight. Two versions of Thanks For The Memory are performed, the first by Bruning, Miles and Patterson, the second by the full sextet. Since there are only seven songs, filling almost an hour and a half, there is time for all six musicians to have long, reflective solos. That said, the two guitarists have most solo space and they are always inventive and assured.

The filming is straightforward and free of gimmickry, the sound quality good, and altogether it is a real pleasure to see and hear this evening of fine music played by front-rank artists. The film contains about half of the music played on that particular evening, all of it having been released on the double CD, Thanks For The Memory … Jim Hall (Jazz Link Enterprises JLECD-1214). This film is one of six Dale Bruning concerts recorded at Dazzle Jazz Club and all are available only in mp4 direct from Jazz Link Enterprises.

Careful; All The Things You Are; Big Blues; Thanks For The Memory (trio); Body And Soul; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To; Thanks For The Memory (sextet) (85.00)
Bruning, Bill Frisell (g); Ron Miles (c); Mark Patterson (tb); Mark Simon (b); Paul Romaine (d). Denver, Colorado. September 2014. Concert filmed by Jerry Cusack, Jazz Link Enterprises. Available only as mp4, which can be purchased from jazzlinkenterprises.com