Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Reuben Braff, 16 March '27, Boston MA; d 9 Feb. 2003) Trumpet, then mostly cornet from '67. Always highly rated for swing, tone, ideas and technique, but coming to prominence playing the mainstream style in the heyday of 'modern' jazz he did not become the star he deserved to be, later making up for lost time; as Martin Gayford wrote in the Daily Telegraph, comparing him to Lester Young and Bix Beiderbecke, 'He can pull out of the air melodies which are so beguilingly beautiful that you don't want them to stop.' He had a playing and acting role in Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Pipe Dream '55-6, then was mostly out of work for years. Solos on Benny Goodman LP B.G. In HI-FI '55; other albums in and out of print include two 10-inch LPs on Bethlehem '54-5 (reissued on Affinity as The Mighty Braff), Buck Meets Ruby on Vanguard with Buck Clayton; others on Vanguard include two duet LPs with Ellis Larkins on piano and a session with Vic Dickenson, Sam Margolis (b 1 Nov. '23, Dorchester MA) on tenor, Nat Pierce, Walter Page and Jo Jones, all '55; Ruby Braff And The Dixie-Victors '56 on RCA; '56-7 sessions on Epic and RCA; Easy Now '58 on RCA; on WB, Stereocraft and UA '58-9, UA again '61, then a gap till '67 and the switch to cornet: Hear Me Talkin' on Polydor/ Black Lion; On Sunnie's Side Of The Street '68 live at Sunnie's Rendezvous, Aspen, Colorado, with Mousey Alexander, drums; Milt Hinton, bass; Ralph Sutton, piano. Plays Louis Armstrong '69 on French BYG was later combined with a Red Norvo album as Swing That Music on Affinity.

On Chiaroscuro: The Grand Reunion '72 (duets with Ellis Larkins), And His International Jazz Quartet '73 with Dick Hyman, Ruby Braff--George Barnes Quartet '73, Live At The New School '74: the last two were the first with guitarist Barnes (b 17 July '21, Chicago Heights; d 5 Sep. '77); Barnes and Braff couldn't stand each other, yet the quartet became a legend among aficionados. Fats Waller's Heavenly Jive with Hyman on organ '76 was also on Chiaroscuro; Them There Eyes '76 and Pretties '78 were made in NYC for Sonet; Swinging On A Star -- Braff Plays Bing '78 with Brian Lemon and strings, made live at London's Pizza Express for their own label; also To Fred Astaire With Love '75 on RCA, With Ed Bickert Trio '79 on Sackville; Very Sinatra '81 on Finesse with Hyman and Bucky Pizzarelli (later on Red Baron). Meanwhile Braff had found a label that could do him justice in Concord: Braff--Barnes Quartet Plays Gershwin, Salutes Rodgers And Hart '74, duet America The Beautiful (now called A Pipe Organ Recital Plus One, with Hyman on pipe organ), then sextets A Fine Match '85, A Sailboat In The Moonlight '86 (also a quintet without drums Mr Braff To You '86 on Phontastic, the last three with Scott Hamilton), Music From My Fair Lady '89 and Younger Than Swingtime: Music From South Pacific '91 with Hyman. The recording continued in the '90s, Braff finally appreciated as the treasure he always was: more on Concord included Bravura Eloquence and two volumes of Ruby Braff And His New England Songhounds (Hamilton, Dave McKenna and others); then on Arbors: Live At The Regattabar and Calling Berlin with Larkins and Pizzarelli, Calling Berlin Vol. 2 a duo with Larkins. The duo format is demanding, but Braff had long shown that he had what it takes; Inside And Out '96 got rave reviews with Roger Kellaway on Concord; Ruby Braff And Dick Hyman: Play Nice Tunes was on Arbors.