Ruby Braff Biography

Reuben Braff, 16 March 1927, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 9 February 2003, North Chatham, Massachusetts, USA. Although Braff did not make a notable impact on the jazz scene until the mid-50s, he was already an accomplished and experienced cornet player. He had worked extensively in the Boston area from the late 40s, playing with Pee Wee Russell and Edmond Hall, recording with the latter in 1949. It was, however, Braff’s 1953 recordings with Vic Dickenson that drew the attention of jazz fans. Between the boppers and the revival movement lay the mainstream jazzmen of which Braff was a singularly attractive example. His lyrical and expressive style, shot through with bursts of white-hot excitement, lent itself especially well to ballads, and during the rest of the 50s, he made several excellent records in distinguished company such as Buck Clayton, Mel Powell, Bud Freeman and Benny Goodman.

Despite this period of remarkable creativity, Braff’s career then stalled, owing in part to his determination to play the way he wanted, rather than as the public or club owners might demand. A second factor that hindered his progress was his habitual bluntness in manner and speech; Braff said what he thought, regardless of the effect that this might have on his chances of a return engagement. His circumstances improved in the 60s, although there were no signs that he was any easier to get on with; perhaps people had simply grown accustomed to his manner. In a succession of concert and festival appearances, and in numerous recordings, Braff proved his continuing excellence both in taste and performance. His musical partnerships included one with George Barnes, which resulted in superb music and countless arguments. He also recorded extensively with Dick Hyman and Scott Hamilton. Braff displayed his elegant, melodic and full-toned playing all around the world, and possessed enough of the old prickliness to frighten off all but the most determined interviewers. In the 90s he recorded with pianist Roger Kellaway and released a series of fine albums on the Arbors Records label. Overcoming serious illness he continued touring up until his death in 2003.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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