‘Full Circle’ with vocalist Gary Brumburgh

On Full Circle, vocalist Gary Brumburgh revisits his early career as a musical theater artist with fresh jazz interpretations of songs from iconic shows like Cabaret, Company, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma! and others. This is Brumburgh’s third album as a leader and follows Moonlight (2018) and Up Jumped Spring (2008). Brumburgh performed in musical theatre for close to two decades.

The album with ‘Everybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere’ is from Coleman’s City of Angels. The lyrics are originally about a detective in search of a woman who may be involved in a murder. In Brumburgh’s version, the song takes on a different meaning in which he is looking for a woman that he has lost track of. This is a brisk, well-delivered opening tune that sets the tone of the album nicely.  The song ‘Celebration’ is from a lesser-known show of the same name. Composed by Harvey Schmidt with lyrics by Tom Jones, Trotter’s arrangement gives the song a bluesy swing feel, with Brumburgh giving the song a “live” feel by adding the musicians as audience members with handclaps and a shout chorus. Trotter’s piano lines are good, as is the guitar work of Larry Koonse, it is also clear that we are listening to a musical theatre singer’s interpretation of jazz and I am not being derogatory when I say that.

Originally a ballad but given a bossa nova spin with a guitar solo by Koonse, ‘Why Should I Wake Up’ from Cabaret was composed by John Kander with lyrics by Fred Ebb. This track sounds dated to me and is not as strong in delivery as the opening number. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘The Surrey with the Fringe on Top’ is from Oklahoma! – the show that triggered Brumburgh’s professional career in musical theatre. Usually sung at a livelier tempo, Brumburgh approaches the tune instead as a soulful ballad and, for me, this works well. Scott Whitfield plays some delightfully sonorous trombone lines that complement the vocals very nicely.

‘Happy Talk’, from South Pacific, is another Rodgers and Hammerstein composition. The song opens with a bebop conversation between Janklow’s sax and Trotter’s piano and features a high-speed scat and vocalese by Brumburgh. I consider this number to be the standout track of the album and congratulations must go to Jamieson Trotter for his arrangement of this very well-known tune.

‘Soon It’s Gonna Rain’ is a ballad from The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones – not a show I am know. Trotter gives the arrangement a cool Latin feel that features Léo Costa’s percussion accompaniment. As a Latinesque number this works better than ‘Why Should I Wake Up’, in part this is down to the Latin percussion but also because of the stronger melodic line played by pianist Jamieson Trotter. ‘Sorry – Grateful’ from Company, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim features Danny Janklow on sax and what a delightful sound he produces. Credit also needs to go to bass player Gabe Evans, whose resonant solo will please any bass enthusiast, and drummer Christian Euman whose playing was crisp, supportive but never dominated.

Another song from South Pacific, ‘You’ve Got To Be Taught’ opens with the trombone of Scott Whitfield, who trades conversational lines with Gary Brumburgh throughout and I really liked the way this tune played through – the piano/drum section is also very good. ‘Love I Hear’, by Sondheim from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum, is sung by a young ingenue in the show. Brumburgh approaches the song as an adult reminiscing about his youth. The lyrics are great, and put across very well, and it is good to hear the guitar of Larry Koonse given room to stretch out. ‘I’m Glad to See You’ve Got What You Want’, also from Celebration, is a gentle swing tune about a girl and boy breaking up. In terms of tempo, it is not dissimilar to the previous track, but that “gentle swing” gives the tune an added lift. The piano playing from Trotter here is very good and has a mainstream classic jazz feel to it – something I very much enjoyed.

‘Far From the Home I Love’ is a tender ballad from Fiddler on the Roof composed by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. The emotional aspect of this tune is provided by the poignant playing by Ross Garen on harmonica. This tune swoops and sores with ease and feels relaxed with wonderful phrasing from vocalist Gary Brumburgh. The album closes with an extended version of ‘Celebration’, which allows the soloists to stretch out and the tune feels all the better for being given the extra time for playing (I do like the “live” feel to this track, which feels more natural than it does on track two).

I enjoyed this album! I like the song choices, the arrangements, and the playing. Gary Brumburgh has a real feel for the lyrics he gives voice to and that, in part, is down to his musical theatre background where living and investing in a part is a requisite for a well-received performance. Full Circle is set for release on March 25, 2022 on Café Pacific Records.

Musicians: Gary Brumburgh – vocals; Jamieson Trotter – piano; Gabe Davis – bass; Christian Euman – drums; Larry Koonse – guitar; Danny Janklow – saxes; Scott Whitfield – trombone; Ross Garen – harmonica; Léo Costa – percussion.

Tracklist: 1. Everybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere. 2. Celebration. 3. Why Should I Wake Up. 4. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top. 5. Happy Talk. 6. Soon It’s Gonna Rain. 7. Sorry-Grateful. 8. You’ve Got To Be Taught. 9. Love I Hear. 10. I’m Glad To See You’ve Got What You Want. 11. Far From The Home I Love. Bonus Track: 12. Celebration (extended version).

Arrangements by Jamieson Trotter.

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