Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins

  • Calling Berlin Vol. 1 [Arbors, 1995] A-

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Calling Berlin Vol. 1 [Arbors, 1995]
So imagine you walk into this, well, lounge in Miami. Or Atlantic City, say. Maybe Chicago. Two old guys are playing, one black and one white, piano and trumpet (cornet, actually, but why quibble?). It's jazz, all right, but not the arty kind--mostly you can follow the melodies, some identifiable ("Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Easter Parade," even you know those) and many vaguely familiar. The tunes are a little corny, and so's the playing now and then, yet the playing also has an attitude--jaunty or humorous or gently sarcastic or just damn pleased with the whole situation. Not campy at all, and never bad even when it seems generic. In short, it embodies the sophisticated spiritual ideal toward which lounge aspires while remaining too serious and self-possessed to tickle the young twits who claim to have rediscovered the stuff. If you're no twit yourself, two first-rate players and one major 20th-century composer may have something to offer you. A-