When veteran jazz vocalist Gary Brumburgh released his delightfully graceful and swinging album Moonlight in 2018, the overriding story was his long awaited and triumphant return to recording after two bouts of head and neck cancer.
With those dark challenges blissfully now far behind him, the multi-talented performer is in the mood to celebrate on his glorious, alternately hard and subtly swinging, scat filled new collection Full Circle to - quite literally, as he includes long and short versions of the rollicking “Celebration” from the slightly obscure 1969 musical of the same name.
Produced by the always musically intuitive Barbara Brighton and featuring some of the same ensemble of L.A. jazz stalwarts that gave Moonlight its cool blend of pep and profoundness (pianist Jamieson Trotter, bassist Gabe Davis, guitarist Larry Koonse), the collection pays homage not only to a unique array of Broadway gems (some well-known, some deliciously under the radar) but meaningful ones from shows that created key moments in Brumburgh’s freewheeling onstage history.
It’s definitely a joyful experiencing sourcing this unique array of tunes – ranging from gems from his final show “City of Angels” (“Ev’rybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere”), “Cabaret” (“Why Should I Wake Up”) and “South Pacific” (“Happy Talk”) to “Fiddler on the Roof” (“Far From the Home I Love”) and two Sondheim flights of fancy (“Sorry-Grateful,” “Love, I Hear”). On one level, it's like taking a stroll through the history of musicals, with unexpected, exquisitely arranged offramps into decidedly not tried and true territory.
Yet the true pleasure of the Full Circle experience is the intimate sense of connection Brumburgh cultivates as he brings the listener into his autobiographical world – and the moods he creates easing from gentle ballads to his frolicsome, fast paced phrasings and wild scat adventures on the more boisterous arrangements.