FIVE FIRSTS: Cliff Brucker

Cliff Brucker
Cliff Brucker

Compiled by J Hunter

NAME: Cliff Brucker
BAND AFFILIATION: Cliff Brucker & Full Circle

FIRST JAZZ RECORDING YOU EVER HEARD OR BOUGHT: Well, my parents were big fans of Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck. I remember Getz/Gilberto, the 1964 jazz/bossa nova album, being played a lot; Brubeck’s Time Out; and their favorite Sinatra album Come Dance With Me. My father would get a kick out of 12-year old me singing and phrasing along perfectly with Sinatra!

FIRST DRUMMER YOU EVER HEARD/SAW THAT MADE YOU SAY, “I WANNA DO THAT”: I remember the guest appearances of Buddy Rich on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Wow, what a mind-blowing experience for budding young drummers everywhere – not only his amazing ability and chops and sense of swing, but his confident swagger and funny, engaging banter with the host. I wanted to be that cool!

FIRST JAZZ SHOW YOU EVER ATTENDED: As a teenager growing up, my friends and I would be let into the back of the Harmony Grill on Hamilton Hill in Schenectady. The owner knew we were young musicians, and he would give us cokes and let us witness some world-class jazz. Organ trios and quartets played by non-famous musicians, but man, could they groove! What a thrill. When I was at Mont Pleasant High School, our stage band opened for the great Duke Ellington in 1969. He was so cool with his velvet shoes and smooth stage presence and killer band. That was a great experience.

FIRST TIME YOU EVER PLAYED JAZZ LIVE – FOR MONEY: Again, I was playing funk and R&B with my friends during my teen years when we met a local jazz B3 player named Jimmy Lane. He had the full rig B3 with the Leslie speaker. He had a Cadillac convertible that he used to move the instrument in to gigs. The organ in the back seat with the top down and the Leslie in the trunk! I started to jam with him in his basement, and one day he asked me to play a gig at a bar down on Broadway in Schenectady. I think I got $25. All the audience thought it was great to see this young white kid playing drums with Jimmy Lane, who did all the Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes material! Of course, my parents were very cool with this. I think they saw my future, and let me play all these funky places. It was a real learning experience. Before I even got out of high school, I was on the road with a touring R&B band with heavy jazz influences!

FIRST TIME YOU PLAYED WITH THE BAND ON FULL CIRCLE: Well, Leo Russo and I have been playing together for some two decades doing jazz gigs, parties and club dates. I was on his album Leo Plays. Otto Gardner and I go way back to the days of the Chambers on Pearl St. and Justin’s on Lark Street when they had jazz. Larry Ham and I went to Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in 1980. Mike Novakowski I’ve known for several years, and Dylan Canterbury is a friend and musical comrade of just the last year or so. The first time we played together as a band was the two recording sessions for the CD in February of this year. Our first gig was the CD release party at Stoney’s Irish Grill on May 1. We also have several other gigs booked through the rest of the year. Plans are for a follow-up album and more bookings into 2017.

Cliff Brucker & Full Circle – whose debut album, “Full Circle,” was released earlier this year – will open the City of Albany Jazz Festival in Washington Park at 1pm on Saturday (September 10). UPDATE, 9/9: The fest has been moved to the rain site – the Corning Preserve Boat Launch parking lot. Also performing are Jazz Caravan, K.J. Denhert, Lucky Chops and the Ellis Marsalis Quintet. GO HERE for the complete festival schedule…

Comments are closed.