Bruce Torff: Down the Line
Bruce Torff on Keyboards
Joel Frahm on Saxophone
Pete McCann on Guitars
Ben Wittman on Drums
Lew Soloff on Trumpet
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 24, 2016
This CD is a mesmerizing selection of original tunes by pianist, Bruce Torff, recorded in late 2014 - early 2015 in Brooklyn, and just released. The album is filled with energy, pathos, and seasoned solos from a top notch band. The pathos derives from the fact that the late trumpeter, Lew Soloff, made his final recordings here, on two tracks, plus the fact that Torff’s longtime friend is memorialized in a poignant track, titled “Memoriam”. The album’s ensemble includes Torff on piano and keyboards, Joel Frahm (who has been favorably reviewed on these pages) on saxophone, Pete McCann on guitars, Ben Wittman on drums, and, as noted, Lew Soloff on trumpet. “Early Sunday”, Soloff’s final recorded work, appears last on the album, with a fading trumpet finale. You’ll hear brisk urbanity and melancholy blues, as each tune is imbued with originality and creative detail. Bruce Torff doubles as a renowned professor of educational psychology with numerous publications. This Renaissance man is also an extraordinary composer and arranger.
All compositions by Bruce Torff.
#4 – Tribal Function – This ingenious track opens with Wittman’s splashy percussion, Torff’s electrified keys, Frahm’s billowy, blustery, tenor sax, and McCann’s edgy guitar. The tempo is an omnipresent, bluesy beat. The guitar picks up a winding, racing theme, before a soaring sax solo expands and reinvents the tantalizing tonality. Torff’s keyboard closes the track with resonant, repetitive notes that form a fused finale with guitar, sax, and drums. This was one of my favorite tracks.
#5 – This I Promise You – This tune, opening with a mellow guitar in yearning echoes, is one of the album’s two homages to Lew Soloff. Soloff’s sophisticated, spotlighted trumpet converses with Frahm’s soulful tenor sax. Drums are minimal and brushed, and keyboards smoothly ambient, in the languorous aura that ensues, like spring rain and cool breezes. In contrast to the previous, electrified track, this tune exemplifies Torff’s noteworthy versatility.
#6 – Well of Tears – In spite of the title, this tune is uplifting, upbeat, and electrified. Wittman’s pulsating drums and Frahm’s swirling tenor sax open the track, on the heels of the plugged in and melodic keyboard and guitar. Torff’s keyboard solo is fanciful and engaging, and McCann’s driven guitar exuded dissonance, but with flourish. Swing and hustle dance rhythms also came to mind.
#11 – Early Sunday – Once again, this tune was Lew Soloff’s farewell recording, and how splendid it was. An electrified guitar introduced the seamless, sensitive theme, played by Torff on his first of three piano interludes. Soloff’s expansive, elegant trumpet solo, that arrives mid-track, shared the spotlight with the refined piano, gorgeous guitar, and supportive drums. When Soloff’s solo ends the track, moments of silence ominously remain.