Jack Brandfield– I’ll Never Be The Same
Jack Brandfield releases his debut album, I’ll Never Be the Same, in one of those uncommon but fascinating formats, the drumless trio. With Brandfield on tenor sax are Randy Napoleon on guitar and Rodney Whitaker on bass.
He is currently pursuing his graduate studies at the University of Miami but Brandfield establishes himself as a historian of the tenor saxophone. This album proves that. He states, “The repertoire I selected for the album is a collection of my favorite songs and music that has significantly influenced me in some way. I have always been drawn to The Great American Songbook, and becoming a leading interpreter of these songs is a lifetime goal of mine.”
He’s well on his way.
He kicks off the album with Jerome Kern’s Nobody Else But Me wherein the trio establishes themselves in flawless harmony and unity. Randy Napoleon and Rodney Whitaker are as dedicatedto Jazz as Brandfield and both teach at Michigan State University where Brandfield did his undergraduate studies. Both Napoleon and Whitaker have numerous album releases under their own names and both bring their mastery to Brandfield’s first outing in supportive ways. Cool solo from Napoleon on this track.
Hank Jones’ Vignette follows. The bouncy composition is treated honorably and well by the trio.Napoleon contributes an excellent and melodic solo that catches the attention.All the while, Whitaker keeps the rhythm in check. Brandfield’s tenor sax leads are extraordinary. His technique and phrasing are captivating. Then Whitaker takes his own solo in the inevitable direction and does not disappoint.
Where Leaves Change is Brandfield’s original. Lyrical and a bit melancholy, this is a credit to—not only Brandfield’s performing—but his composing talents. The cool tremolos and the sustained tones are delicious.
Lover Come Back to Me is the Sigmund Romberg beauty from 1928 made glorious by Billie Holiday twice.Again, Napoleon and Whitaker create the foundation upon which Brandfield so readily builds. So well-crafted and well-executed.
Malneck and Signorelli’s I’ll Never Be the Same is warm and wonderful. Written in 1932 and recorded by Billie Holiday (1937), Artie Shaw (1945), Frank Sinatra (1955), and Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson (1957) along with so many others. The back-and-forth between Brandfield and Napoleon is brilliant and Whitaker contributes some of his best bass lines.
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Andorinha is a gorgeous tune (as is everything by Jobim) and the trio makes it shine ever brighter. Napoleon gets a great turn in the Jobim tune. Whitaker is solid underneath those cool tenor sax runs from Brandfield. Then Whitaker gets a very cool bass solo on Slow Boat to China by Frank Loesser.
Duke Ellington’s Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me is as soulful as you could ever hope and Brandfield offers his rawest and coolest sax leads of the whole album. Love that raspy tenor sax. That rawness is replaced by the sweetness of Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen), a song so often covered that one wonders if anything new can be said by it. Brandfield allays those trepidations and gives us yet another voice in the choir of the sweet and sad standard.
Then comes the lively and lyrical Bossa Nova Ova by Thad Jones. The beautiful playing in unisonbetween sax and guitar with that perfect bass backing is worth the price of admission. But Ballad Medley is a great treat, as well.
In Ballad Medley, Brandfield opens with I’m Through with Love (Malneck/Levington) moves to Jimmy Van Huesen and concludes with the 1952 Bob Haymes classic That’s All. That song was first recorded by Nat King Cole but given wider exposure by Bobby Darin’s 1959 cover. Recorded by various artists over 40 times (and appearing in six motion pictures), it is well-known and equally well-loved. Brandfield does great honor to the piece as part of this fine medley.
Jack Brandfield wraps the album with Gigi Gryce’s Wildwood. You have to love the delivery from Brandfield here. In fact, the whole trio is right on top of it. These guys are brilliant.
I’ll Never Be the Same is appropriately titled because the thrill, the warmth, the intelligence of the album is truly changing. Brandfield belies his young years by playing timeless classics with an old soul’s ear for reverence and great fun.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl