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White Boy Blues

by Tom Bruno

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👽🍹 Makes me feel like I'm watching this performance late at night at the club, behind sunglasses through thick smoke. Fantastically free, will transport you to another place and time. Favorite track: Get My Hat, It's a Rat.
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Brushmush 07:12


For years, a subway token was all the cover you needed to hear some of the fiercest free jazz in New York City. That's because Tom Bruno, with his pared-down drum kit, practiced in subway stations. Pick up the uptown 6 at Astor Place & there he was, competing with the clack of trains. Some days, he was under Time Square or in the bowels of Grand Central Terminal. Maybe he took the phrase underground musician too seriously. Maybe everyone else didn't take it seriously enough.
Don't misunderstand this. This was not exile. He chose to go underground to play his music unconditionally. Think Sonny Rollins on the Williamsburg Bridge, playing for himself.
Once, I happened upon him playing at Astor Place & stopped to listen. his eyes were closed as his hands skipped & shuffled around. I let a couple trains go by & listened. Tom didn't open his eyes much. If he knew he had an audience, it must have been because he smelled us.
Here was his freedom. Tom had found his proper venue to improvise.
Tom's been playing his music this way for a couple of decades. A longtime member of the New York City Artist's Collective, he has focused great amounts of energy on providing a path for musicians to find their sound & develop it with dignity intact.
In the last few years, something unexpected happened. An appreciative audience began to come together. Not just fans of improvised jazz, but other who took a detour from rock & heard sounds that made them sit up & listen. Tom dragged his drum kit from the underground more often & into studios & clubs.
These days, Bruno is getting more recognition. He is a member of TEST --a working quartet playing some of the best free jazz around. Besides Bruno on drums, there is Daniel Carter & Sabir Mateen on a variety of saxophones, flutes & reeds, & Matt Heyner on bass.
The music here is from a different era. It was recorded in a New York City club in 1981 & lets us listen to an accomplished, untarnished musician experimenting & developing his sound. it is solo work --both on his usual drums & the piano as well.
Coming upon Tom playing music in the subway was always like stumbling across a wildflower in an abandoned, trash-strew lot. Listen. it still Is. --Russell Gold, 1998

Best known, if at all, as the thundering percussive backbone of NYC subway quartet TEST, Bruno has actually had a long career underneath the city of New York jamming through the commuter frenzy at Grand Central Terminal or under Times Square since the early '80s. This isn't a field recording, however --if that's what you're after, check out his duo with saxophonist Sabir Mateen, called Getting Away with Murder, also on Eremite, which includes clanking trains & loudspeaker announcements. White Boy Blues documents a 1981 solo performance at the Roulette artist's space in Tribeca. However, it is much more than just a solo drum set: while it's not short on alone-in-space tonal impact, some of the most rewarding sections feature Bruno's surprisingly nimble fingered & dramatically melodic piano ringing. --David Keenan, The Wire


released April 15, 2020

Tom Bruno: drums, piano, voice, dance

dedicated to my boyhood idols: Clifford Brown, Harold Land, George Morrow, Richie Powell & Max Roach

13 October 1981, Roulette, NYC
Producers: Michael Ehlers & the New York City Artists' Collective
engineer: Jim Staley
photography: Shep Hunter
original flyer design: Laurie Szujewska


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