There’s that fascinating instrument with the wild hybrid name again – FLUBA! A super low bass toned tuba sized flugelhorn designed by prolific tuba great and studio musician Jim Self, it’s right there, in all its darkly mysterious yet fiery, emotionally expressive glory on the swinging, high spirited title track of Touch and Go, the fourth collaborative album by Self and equally storied jazz guitarist John Chiodini.
This time, the spectacular and adventurous as always duo has a rhythmically and harmonically eclectic kick vibing with a quintet of L.A. greats featuring trumpeter Ron Stout (who played on the duo’s 2022 collection Hangin’ Out) and the intuitive, powerhouse rhythm section of Ken Wild (bass) and Kendall Kay (drums).
While Stout gets a blastful of dynamic solos (check out his dancing blaze on the percussive “Prolepsis” before Self and Chiodini’s inventive solos) and Wild and Kay provide easy swing and/or intense propulsion at every turn, the heartfelt core of the collection is Susanne, a tender ballad in the middle of the repertoire which strips everything else away for a beautifully intuitive intertwining conversation (including improvisations) between Self’s horn and Chiodini’s crystalline strumming lines. It’s the musical embodiment of Self’s reflection: “John is the perfect accompanist for me. He always knows how to make me sound good.”
Can’t miss highlights featuring the group include a sly, struttin’ twist on “Ain’t Misbehavin’” featuring a crafty dual trumpet/tuba melody;, the bluesy, whimsical mid-tempo ballad “Amber”; and the dreamy, seductive “Lament,” penned by J.J. Johnson, who was the opening act on a 1989 tour by Mel Torme and the Marty Paich Deckette, whose band Self was a part of; and the punchy, restless Miles Davis tune “Dig,” which wraps Touch and Go with a feisty bebop flair.