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Bruce Dudley: Press

What the press has to say about BRUCE DUDLEY…

"As the leader, Dudley set the evening’s tone with a supple, rich blend of assertive melodic statements, delightful accompaniment, first-rate phrasing, counterpoint and harmonizing." Ron Wynn - ArtsNash

"He can range from a strong two-handed approach to a sensitive lyricism, and seems to share a characteristic with the late great Bill Evans: both hands always seem to be in perfect balance, which gives every note a harmonic richness making repeated listening a pleasure." TENNESSEE JAZZ AND BLUES NEWS

"Dudley’s well-schooled piano style is guided by dominant but subtle right-hand figures that galvanize one of the most cohesive trios in town." THE NASHVILLE SCENE

"Dudley plays the piano with such grace and authority that he has quietly become the pianists that other pianists go to hear." HOUSTON POST

"The Bruce Dudley Trio serves up a rich jazz plate when they perform. Pianist Bruce Dudley has both the taste and the chops to cover the likes of Duke Ellington and other jazz masters." THE TENNESSEAN

"Dudley, whose fluent lines jet around the keyboard, absorbing motifs into the stream, without a split second of hesitation, at any point of rhythm in the bar, are stunning to listen to…" HALIFAX CHRONICLE HERALD

"Pianist Dudley knows his way around the classics, tastefully interpreting Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and other giants, but doing so without a paint-by-numbers mentality." THE TENNESSEAN

"One of Western New York's most popular and exciting jazz combos -The Bruce Dudley Quintet, with vocalist Sandra Dudley… Bruce’s piano lines are like icing on the cake." NIAGARA FALLS REVIEW

What other people have to say about Bruce Dudley....

“It is so refreshing to hear someone perform a composition, whether original or standard and be able to FEEL the reverence and compassion for the tune. (Dudley’s) lyricism is tremendous and (his) touch unreal. There's that Ahmad Jamal dynamic in there...that super hip taste and softness that swings with urgency.” CHAD ANDERSON, drummer, visual & graphic artist.

"Bruce Dudley has excellent solos…I'm impressed with his flowing articulation." PAT LABARBERA, Saxophonist with Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, and others.

8/24/11 • Albums • By Bruce Pulver Bruce Dudley - Mostly Monk - CD Review Bruce Dudley Masterfully Reworks and Restrings Monk Taking a musical risk is akin to “running with scissors.” One slip, stumble or fall can cause unpleasant results. Let’s get this straight. Pianist and composer, Bruce Dudley could be content at his University teaching posts in Nashville, TN, teaching students, performing faculty recitals, and publishing in the music journals. He could easily turn out the lights at the end of each day and lead a comfortable life in relative obscurity. But NO, instead he accepts the highly risky challenge of doing something fresh and appealing with compositions of the Jazz Icon, Thelonious Monk. Kidding right? Who wants to take a chance and mess with an original like Monk? To do so, there must be no shortage of confidence and imagination. These characteristics must be mixed with real talent and taste to make the result jump out and stand out. So the puzzle is how to do something unique with something so unique in the first place. Got your attention? No doubt, Thelonious Monk made an eternal impact on the musical landscape, so tread lightly on the legacy Mr. Dudley. You are skating on sacred musical ice. What is the result? Bruce Dudley’s “Mostly Monk” respectfully takes the music of Thelonious Monk and lifts it to a new level with his musical imagination and masterful creativity. He is supported by a cast of world class musicians who give Mr. Monk’s music new life through the interpretations of Mr. Dudley. Out of the gate, Mr. Dudley, presents “Four in One” as an appetizer, and quickly shows his command and respect of Mr. Monk’s music. The quartet uses its collective ears in respect and admiration for the composer and his place in history. The assignment is to listen to this track as hard as the musicians did when they recorded it. JUST TRY! A quick read of the liner notes reveals that an equally important aspect of this project is the use of the classical string ensemble as a canvas for Mr. Dudley’s interpretations. “Ask Me Now” is a deep and complex arrangement very “Monkishly” applied to strings. Next, who would have thought to take two compositions and combine them into a single musical arrangement? “Monk’s Dream/Little Rootie Tootie”. And just for fun, meld the jazz quartet and the strings which are used to comp the soloist and as an ensemble with saxophone section-like harmonies and runs. Drummer Jim White is a one-man percussion section with huge melodic proportion. More on Mr. White later. This is just a nice taste. This project is not exclusively devoted to Thelonious Monk. With “Tango D’Orfeo” Mr. Dudley's composition explores the Argentine Tango. Keeping with the theme, as long as you have the strings, why not incorporate them as an integral part of stylistic interpretation. The mix of meters and slow melody “with attitude” makes for a wonderfully complex listen. Enough of this organized and structured material. Why not just open up a few tunes and let them breathe? Exactly what Mr. Dudley asks his quartet to do with “Played Twice” and “Pannonica” “Think of One”, Jim White introduces the melody with the drums. WHAT? EXACTLY! Mr. Dudley creates free and breathing arrangements without encumbrance. ENJOY. Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan” and Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” are two more wonderful compositions to integrate strings. The rich chord progressions provide the foundation and Mr. Dudley takes it from there. Great choices! So much music going on with these tunes. How about closing things out with Ornette Coleman’s composition “Free”? The strings boldly announce the melody. The rhythm section of Mr. White and Mr. Spencer pick up by digging in and saying “Mr. Dudley, can you come out and play?” Ready, fire, aim. Let’s just go with it. By now, the astute listener will have ripped into the CD package to find out who these fine jazz musicians are supporting Mr. Dudley. These musicians are all very close friends and have played countless gigs and sessions together. Good friends can create a kind of music only possible due to the deep friendships. Like siblings who often finish each other’s sentences, there is a bond that develops. Listen to the quartet playing with this in mind and you will hear the friendship in the playing. Don Aliquo plays Tenor Saxophone. Besides, being Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Saxophone at the Middle Tennessee State University’s, Mr. Aliquo is an accomplished and highly sought after leader and collaborator with many performing, recording and clinician credits to his name. His contribution to this project shows not only his beautiful sound but also his close friendship with Mr. Dudley. The Bass duties are shared by Roger Spencer and Jim Ferguson. Two wonderful players well established in the Nashville scene and in constant demand. Both have complete command over their instrument which let’s their musical personalities come through clearly. Drummer Jim White is a musical beast with playing and teaching credits galore. Sorry Mr. White, you can no longer hide in the weeds unrecognized for the true musician you are. It’s long overdue that Mr. White be recognized as one of the finest musicians on the scene anywhere today. Top of mind for Mr. White is being musical which is evident in his expressive playing. Never “chopping” the listener to death. Oh no! The opposite is true for sure. His weapon of choice is death by a thousand cuts of melodic and rhythmic musicianship. Jim White understands what the ensemble needs musically and delivers every time. To get this at a deep level, commit yourself to just one listen focusing on the drums. Enough said. “Think of One” is a crystal clear example. Any questions? Mr. Dudley, thank you for taking the risk, composing and arranging this music in a new light and giving the listener something special. Tracks: Four in One, Ask Me Now, Monk’s Dream/Little Rootie Tootie, Tango D’Orfeo, Played Twice, Pannonica, Isfahan, Think of One, The Peacocks, Free Musicians: Bruce Dudley, Piano and Arrangements, Jim White, Drums, Don Aliquo, Tenor Saxophone, Jim Ferguson and Roger Spencer, Bass, David Davidson and David Angell, Violins, Chris Farrell, Viola, Sari Reist, Matt Slocum, and Matt Walker, Cello Artist's Website: Released 2010 These are my comments. I welcome yours.

Bruce Pulver - Jazz Times (Aug 24, 2011)

Music Review: Bruce Dudley Quartet gets downright contemporary at the Jazz Cave


Pianist, bandleader and composer Bruce Dudley’s amassed both a strong reputation and impressive credits as a player and contributor to several outstanding area sessions. Plus he’s widely admired for his stellar interpretations of works from such greats as Thelonious Monk.

The presence of several young faces at Saturday night’s Bruce Dudley Quartet performance at the Nashville Jazz Workshop’s Jazz Cave proved he’s a valued educator as well.

Dudley demonstrated another side of his playing portfolio as his quartet performed two terrific sets, the latest event in the Workshop’s ongoing “Contemporary Jazz Series.” The accent was on new, challenging works penned by either Dudley or fellow band members rather than exploring historic compositions from the jazz canon.

The bands and musicians spotlighted in this series have ranged from well known to somewhat obscure (at least for the area), but all are seasoned and versatile. Dudley’s group was no exception.

Saxophonist Jesus Santandreu has extensive range, a fluid and expressive tone, and loads of energy. He easily shifted between ballads, animated pieces and the occasional reworked version of a jazz or pop tune.

As the leader, Dudley set the evening’s tone with a supple, rich blend of assertive melodic statements, delightful accompaniment, first-rate phrasing, counterpoint and harmonizing. He previously showed on his Monk LP he could personalize difficult arrangements and compositions, but most of Saturday’s material wasn’t filled with the unexpected sharps – rather than flats, naturals or frequently odd structures – that were Monk’s hallmark.

Instead, the pieces he and bassist Jonathan Wires (the evening’s principal composers) featured tended to be lengthy (from six to 10 minutes), multi-layered, intense and compelling. Drummer Derrek Phillips also contributed a couple of works to the sets.

Wires’ songs comprised a hefty portion of the material, and he was also a reliable, sturdy figure in the rhythm section. Wires didn’t get many solos, but when it was his time alone he played with a disciplined flair that showcased his technical prowess and willingness to frame statements rather than just rip off notes.

Phillips proved a percussion marvel, able to generate furious rhythms or smoother, sleek textures. He also didn’t get a lot of solos, because just going through a blowing session or a series of lengthy exchanges wasn’t what the Dudley Quartet’s music championed. But when he did get the opportunity, Phillips thrilled the crowd with a surging mix of arresting beats and textures.

Most of the time, the quartet offered a unified presentation that still provided enough standout sections to billboard each member’s instrumental brilliance. But the goal was for the band as a whole to excel, rather than just offering audiences the basic melody/solos/melody formula that can get weary when constantly done by players incapable of extending or stretching it. That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday night.

High points (though none of the pieces was anything less than intriguing) included a powerful, if surprising in its stylistic evolution, number titled “The Blue Line” that was the opening set’s second piece. It featured some of Dudley’s more animated playing and dazzling rhythmic support from the Wires/Phillips tandem, augmented by sax playing from Santandrea that alternated between tender and torrid.

The same was true of Phillips’ “The Waiting,” which was fueled by stirring bass/drum interaction throughout, a blend of soothing and fiery piano work by Dudley and another superb tenor contribution from Santandreu. Indeed the quartet’s interaction was so intense they gave listeners a first set that ran nearly 75 minutes.

The second set was more abbreviated, but no less worthy. Dudley turned to his rock/pop side, discussing his admiration of Prince and talking about his experiences with the late Claire Fischer, who got some crossover attention for his collaborations with Prince. The quartet later nicely reworked “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” with a slightly different take that didn’t veer so far from the original.

Dudley’s group also included a fine rendition of McCoy Tyner’s “Four For Five,” from his 1967 Blue Note debut LP “The Real McCoy.” This concluded a strong show that revealed Dudley’s just as memorable and dynamic in front of his own combo as when he’s a contributor in the studio or on to another band.

Music City listeners and jazz fans in general should anticipate more vigorous and unpredictable music from the Bruce Dudley Quartet in the near future.

Ron Wynn - ArtsNash (Nov 19, 2013)

Jazz review: Pianist Bruce Dudley and Nashville Jazz Workshop pay homage to Dave Brubeck


Pianist/composer/arranger Bruce Dudley has previously demonstrated his thorough knowledge of one jazz legend’s catalog (Thelonious Monk).

On Sunday, he saluted another, paying homage to the accomplishments and career of Dave Brubeck, the great jazz pianist who died last Dec. 5, just one day short of his 92nd birthday. Dudley led a fine group before a capacity crowd at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.  The performance kicked off the seventh season of the Nashville Jazz Workshop’s Jazz on the Move, a series that spotlights the contributions of important jazz personalities.

dudleyDudley had the dual task of both playing and talking about Brubeck’s music. His solos and phrasing on vintage Brubeck pieces offered multiple  examples of the great pianist’s famously complex style – including his improvised counterpoint, polytonality, and polyrhythms. There were also personal touches –displayed through the use of inventive, intriguing arrangements and decisive, aggressive phrasing – that showcased Dudley’s musical personality as much as it celebrated Brubeck’s approach.

His band mates proved equally assertive and demonstrative in their roles. Alto saxophonist Denis Solee was careful to strike a balance between the soft, sentimental, sweet tone epitomized by Paul Desmondand a stronger, more blues-tinged feel throughout his statements.

Bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown ably executed melodic shifts and negotiated odd rhythms, and while not often called upon for solos, delivered memorable work during occasional spotlight moments.

The opening selection personified the afternoon’s sensibility. The quartet performed a version of “Perdido” that was a nimble balancing act between the frequently more Latin-flavored versions preferred by large orchestras and the more harmonically sophisticated mode that was the Brubeck quartet’s signature.

The same was true for melodic revisions applied to “Stardust,” the ensemble’s intricately voiced collective edge on “The Way You Look Tonight,” and its more animated renditions of “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “The Duke.”

brubeck-timeThe latter song, by the way, was Brubeck’s tribute to Duke Ellington. Brubeck was on tour with his band in 1954 when he learned that he was on the cover of Time magazine. Ellington was the one who sent Brubeck the good news. Brubeck said later that he thought Ellington should have been on the cover.

Dudley reminded the audience this cover was a source of anger and frustration for many in the jazz community, who felt a white bandleader was being prematurely recognized in a predominantly black idiom at the expense of a seminal African-American figure.

The tune’s sweeping beat and stride piano echoes within the arrangement reflected Brubeck’s love for Ellington’s music, and Dudley’s solo fully expressed that with some of his strongest rhythmic work of the day.

As usual in these programs, audiences got both exceptional musical numbers and insightful historical analysis. Besides Dudley’s extensive breakdowns of both Brubeck’s personal history and pianistic/writing tendencies, the three other musicians each offered their views on what made the additional classic Brubeck Quartet guys great.

brubeck-desmondSolee cited Desmond’s wit, love of puns and ability to forge a distinctive sound far afield of what other sax favorites in that era (most notably Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley) as keys to his success.

Spencer pointed out the irony of a bassist rooted in Kansas City swing (Eugene Wright) being the centerpiece for a group whose main composer favored unconventional time signatures and metrical arrangements. Brown praised drummer Joe Dodge as the person who enabled Brubeck to become an even more adventurous writer, because he could handle anything Brubeck constructed rhythmically.

The final songs proved their collective points, particularly “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” a song written in 9/8, something that was unusual in the ’50s and still is today. While Dudley and Solee alternated between forceful melodic expositions and delightful exchanges, Spencer and Brown nicely maintained the song’s constantly churning textures.

Of course, there couldn’t be a Brubeck salute without “Take Five,” which was the encore piece and earned the group a second standing ovation. It also gave Brown his prime moment, as he performed a fabulous solo and did something seldom heard in this context.

While Spencer and Dudley kept the song’s framework, Brown executed a dazzling, exciting statement that not only revealed his flair as a drummer, but maintained a connection to the core melody rather than operating outside it or using the solo as a transitional device to link the group back to it. It was both brilliant support and a dynamic individual showcase, two things many drummers seldom combine in a solo situation.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s enormous popularity helped give jazz unprecedented popularity and visibility during the ’50s and ’60s, something that attracted its share of detractors alongside the wave of fans. But as the Dudley group showed Sunday, upon closer inspection, Brubeck’s music, especially when superbly played, champions jazz’s highest virtues (artistry, integrity and individual flamboyance) even as it incorporates influences from other genres.

Ron Wynn - ArtsNash (Mar 11, 2013)