The then-32-year-old trumpeter Ruby Braff was fond of show tunes, and took for his concept the songs from the Gershwin brothers' Broadway stage play Girl Crazy for this album, his sixth as a leader. The music played by this band under the moniker of the Shubert Alley Cats is fairly predictable within the swing style, but this recording at times leans more toward bop with the inclusion of pianist Hank Jones, guitarist Jim Hall, and especially Al Cohn, who plays his trusty tenor sax and a lot of clarinet. The musicianship is solid enough, the songs a bit stretched with solos, and the jazz fairly interesting within the conservative, mainstream, straight-ahead idiom. The hottest tune is the last, "Barbary Coast," as bassists Bob Haggart and George Duvivier go to town while the horns jam, while the slowest "Embraceable You" is the opener, a ballad where Braff plays in a style akin to Louis Armstrong.
This release compiles all of Rudy Braff’s recordings for the Bethlehem label for the first time ever on a single set. While the original EP and LP editions had incomplete sessions or combined tunes from different dates, the music is presented here with the complete sessions in chronological order a version of “You Can Depend on Me” and an entire quintet sessions fronted by Braff and Bud Freeman appear here for the first time ever on CD. The album The Rudy Braff Special (Vanguard VRS8504), from the same period, has been added as a bonus in its entirety.
For the fourth of five recordings made by the classic Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet, ten songs by Rodgers and Hart are given melodic, swinging, creative treatment. Cornetist Braff and guitarist Barnes fed off of each other and worked very well together, while rhythm guitarist Wayne Wright and bassist Michael Moore always gave them impeccable support. Highlights of this enjoyable set include "Isn't It Romantic," "Blue Room," "You Took Advantage of Me" and "The Lady Is a Tramp".
One of the great swing/Dixieland cornetists, Ruby Braff went through long periods of his career unable to find work because his music was considered out-of-fashion, but his fortunes improved by the 1970s. A very expressive player who in later years liked to build his solos up to a low note, Braff's playing was instantly recognizable within seconds.