Tom Bruno

White Boy Blues

Eremite Records MTE-22 CD


Bruno drums, piano, voice, dance

Track Listing:
  1. White Boy Blues
  2. Ellen, Portait of an Artist
  3. The Sound Comes From Within
  4. Get My Hat, It's a Rat
  5. Brushmush

13 October 1981, Roulette, NYC
Producers: Michael Ehlers & the New York City Artists' Collective
engineer: Jim Staley
photography: Shep Hunter
painting: Neil Anderson
liner notes: Russell Gold

Tom Bruno: White Boy Blues

maybe he took the phrase underground musician too seriously.  maybe everyone else didn't take it seriously enough.

Even though it was recorded in 1981, this is underground (or at least then he was) NYC crazy man Tom Bruno's 11th album. Accompanying himself on drums, drums, and more drums, as well as piano, voice, and dance (which listeners unfortunately can't hear), this is a free music record that is so free it's almost omnipresent and invisible after a while -- yes, yes, that's a compliment.  Bruno is the guy you always heard in the subways in New York around Sixth and Astor Place. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have heard him since he began his underground gigging in 1975. But he's no "art brut" wunderkind; Bruno has been a member of the New York City Artist's Collective since the '70s, and has played clubs wherever they would have him. Given that he is a solo drummer, his music is not one for the masses to be able to accept, let alone enjoy -- as the pieces on this record attest. But make no mistake, in the same way that Charles Gayle is a bona fide saxophone player, Bruno is the real thing as a drummer. In fact, like Rashied Ali before him, he is a master of the solo drum space. In fact, he is a monster of a drummer. He can play like Max Roach or Denis Charles. his percussionist abilities are derived from numerous African and African-American influences just as they are from the sound of the trains he was competing with in the subways of New York. These five selections attest that even as far back as 1981, Bruno was in full command of a musical and spatial language that allowed him to perform without a band for club audiences and commuters alike, and engage more of them than not. His music may not be for everyone, but no matter, it is full of passion and technical verve and, most of all, in an era of players who are content to read from texts secondhand, it is original. 

-- Thom Jurek,

Best known, if at all, as the thundering percussive backbone of NYC subway quartet TEST, Bruno has actually had a long career underneath the city of New York jamming through the commuter frenzy at Grand Central Terminal or under Times Square since the early '80s. This isn't a field recording, however --if that's what you're after, check out his duo with saxophonist Sabir Mateen, called Getting Away with Murder, also on Eremite, which includes clanking trains & loudspeaker announcements. White Boy Blues documents a 1981 solo performance at the Roulette artist's space in Tribeca. However, it is much more than just a solo drum set: while it's not short on alone-in-space tonal impact, some of the most rewarding sections feature Bruno's surprisingly nimble fingered & dramatically melodic piano ringing.

-- David Keenan, The Wire