Bruno’s Christmas Recital Revisited


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The pianist Jack Brownlow (1923-2007), known to his friends as Bruno, was a constant correspondent. Over the years, he stayed in touch by letter, postcard, telephone and recordings. At Christmas time he brightened the season for our family with music he taped at the grand piano in the living room of his house in Seattle. Just once, when we were living in New Orleans, he made his Christmas recording using the Fender-Rhodes electric piano. Something about that instrument invested his Christmas songs with unusual sprightliness up-tempos and a contemplative quality at slow ones; all with his special harmonic gift.

Wherever we have lived—east, west, north and south—Bruno’s 1969 Christmas medley has ushered in the Yuletide season and played through New Year’s Eve. This time around, we’re sharing it. It runs more than forty minutes. You may wish to save it for a relaxed period during your holiday. Following the music is a list of tunes in the medley, with a few notes by Bruno in quotation marks. “Jimnopodae” was for his friend and bassist Jim Anderson. He named “Karen” after his youngest daughter.

Bruno wrote, “I have recorded a little every night when I get home from the gig. I plugged directly from the Fender into the tape machine, so it is monaural, necessarily. There are probably mistakes, but I didn’t re-record anything.”

  • “Jimnopodae” (Brownlow)
  • “We Three Kings” (John Henry Hopkins, 1857)
  • Interlude
  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Let It Snow” (note from Bruno, “Inspired by old Woody Herman 78 rpm”)
  • Interlude
  • “Deck The Halls” (“Old Welsh Air”)
  • (a) Interlude (b) “Blues for Fender-Rhodes” (Brownlow) (c) “Deck the Halls”
  • “Too Late Now” (Burton Lane)
  • (a) Interlude (b) “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (c) Interlude (d) “Jingle Bells”
  • “Christmas Waltz” (Brownlow)
  • (a) “21st Day of Christmas” (Brownlow) (b) “Christmas Waltz” (Brownlow)
  • “She Only Gives Me Her Funny Papers” (Lennon & McCartney)
  • “Whatever Happened to Christmas?” (Jim Webb)
  • (a) “Why Don’t Thelonious Dance?” (Brownlow) (b) Interlude (a) “Joy to The World” (b) Interlude
  • Karen (Brownlow
  • (a) Interlude (b) “‘People’ creeps in” (c) Interlude (d) “White Christmas” (e) “Merry Christmas Blues” (Brownlow) (f) “Joy to The World”

Happy holidays to Rifftides readers everywhere.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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