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CD Review: Bruce Forman Trio “Formanism”

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The name Bruce Forman might not ring a bell but chances are you’ve heard his music. As the guitarist of choice for Clint Eastwood when he directs films, Forman has been featured on the soundtracks of “Million Dollar Baby,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Hereafter.”

It’s not long into the first tune of his new album, “Formanism,” that you realize why greats like Kenny Burrell and Barney Kessel have praised Forman. He’s got the kind of fluid, melodic style that nods to both Burrell and Kessel, yet he adds a contemporary experimental flair. Forman has seemingly absorbed the finest aspects of guitar masters who have preceded him, hitting styles from jazz to classical to flamenco. His technique shifts easily from legato runs, to percussive accents and chord-oriented melodies.

No shortage of credit for the album’s great sound goes to Forman’s excellent trio members; drummer Jake Reed and bassist Gabe Noel. Their spare but rich, just-right accompaniment provides the perfect background for Forman’s excursions, from Noel’s arco playing on “Bruzette” to Reed’s versatile (read: ever-changing) technique.

Forman wrote nine out of the 11 tunes on the album (one of them with Reed) and each one has a fresh feel, showcasing his lively style. The album’s two covers are particularly well-chosen. “Flamingo” is featured in an arrangement nicely reminiscent of early Ahmad Jamal and “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star” is a beautiful performance of the Jerome Kern ballad.

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