Nick Brignola: This Is It!

Brignola is best known for his baritone playing but on his 1967 debut he also used alto, saxello, flute and bass, sometimes multitracking

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Nick Brignola established a reputation as one of the premier voices on the baritone saxophone in a long career that produced 21 albums under his own name. This Is It! was his first and it received an enthusiastic Downbeat review from Pete Welding, who observed that “reed player Brignola has come up with a very tasty programme of post-bop that serves as a good demonstration of his multi instrumental prowess as well”.

The Mace sounds like the sort of perfunctory theme that might have come from the pen of Ornette Coleman. Through the magic of multi-tracking Nick duets with himself on baritone throughout an extended vamp here. He tiptoes through the music’s most basic harmony on Blues For Ose using his saxello, which sounds close to a soprano. On this track he demonstrates his amazing versatility by accompanying himself on the bass, producing a satisfyingly resonant sound on the instrument which he caps off with the oldest coda known to jazz.

Despite only taking up the flute four months before this recording, he demonstrates some impressively fleet fingering on the uptempo Autumn Leaves. On All The Things You Are, after Reese Markewich’s abstract, almost ethereal intro (straight out of the Richard Twardzik playbook), Brignola launches into the album’s longest track at a finger-busting 70 bpm. He doesn’t state the melody at all and my tin ears detect some subtle tweaks to Jerome Kern’s classic harmonies along the way. On first listening it was not until chorus number five of seven that I realised what was being played. That said, it’s a pretty amazing performance.

Discography
The Mace; Blues For Ose; Autumn Leaves; All The Things You Are; Sparky; My Melancholy Baby (53.04)
Brignola (bar, as, slo, f, b); Reese Markewich (p); Glen Moore (b); Dick Berk (d). New York, April 1967.
Fresh Sound Records FSR 1672