Guitarist BRUCE FORMAN has been making positives waves in jazz circles for over 30 years, and he continues to do so on his wonderful new album Formanism (B4MAN-MUSIC – 102). Forman is joined by Gabe Noel on bass and Jake Reed on drums for an eleven-tune journey that sprinkles a few standards, “Flamingo” and “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” among a collection of original tunes. Forman is a bopper at heart, but he does not hesitate to go in a variety of directions, even giving two distinct readings of his “Bruzette.” Whether burning up the frets or gently caressing the strings, Forman never loses your attention, and when the album is finished, there is a strong temptation to hit the “play” button again. I did so, and I imagine that you will also. 

FAME Review: Bruce Forman Trio - Formanism

There's very good reason USC hired Bruce Forman to fill the gigantic shoes of Joe Diorio, namely the fact that he plays like a demon, and from an old school mastery to boot. Ya might recall the FAME Cow Bop review ( here ), in which Forman grabbed some Django chops and swung like crazy along the mesquite skyline. In this one, he trades up for a long session of technical mastery a la Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, even some Gabor Szabó ( Sea Sweet ), among others. Yep, this is pure trio heaven, emphasis on guitar but with some great bass from Gabe Noel, who can dance the obtuse periphery when he wants, and susurrant drumming from Jake Reed, the ground floor upon which the two axehandlers tread their paces.

Forman has provided music in three Clint Eastwood movies, appeared at the Monterey Jazz Fest 20 times (!) and, well, I don't have enough room to cite all his many honors and sit-ins, so suffice it to say the guy knows what to do with that pick and those six strings…and then some. Whether it's the slo-bop of Blue Jake or the bouncy convolutions of Underdog , with it's Bewitched intro, or the angular chords-n-runs trade-offs of Tassajara Turnaround , what you get is straight-up honest no bullshit playing. The guy indulges only a slightly amplified electric and nothing but pure unvarnished skill in a format that's monumentally unforgiving of even the slightest errors. None of that occurs here in the least.

Instead you get the kind of workouts that inspire people to take up the guitar in the hopes of just approximating this kind of polish one day—either that or the sheer bravado daunts 'em that they'll never be able to hold a candle to the picker's scary-good acumen and thus content themselves to rapt listenership (count me among the latter!). So, to those looking for the next Jimmy Page or Curt Cobain, look elsewhere, but if you want to hear what kinda musicians cats like Eddie van Halen listen to when no one's around, this is the place. This style of music is ever rarer, but when it's encountered, anyone with a true love of guitar sits down entranced, drinking it in by the cup, the bottle, and the barrel.

Another review (from

So what in the world is a "Formanism?"

Perhaps the best example if not fitting review comes straight from the liner notes. Formanism? "It means it's not just another blowing session", Bruce says. "There's more to life than just a lot of notes. Notes don't give a shit whether they sound good or bad. They're just notes, it's up to us. When we played these live sessions, we were concerned with the vibe. The mood and the groove."

While the latter part of this "Formanism" sound suspiciously like something heard from a smooth jazz player the bottom line is similar to this "Formanism" and it is indeed this grip it and rip it mentality or perhaps a return to the trio format for the first time in a dozen years that has Forman releasing a trio record as exciting, expansive and energetic as anything that came from the classic Blue Note days of the mid 1960's.

The trio format was specifically chosen for these compositions to add to the flavor and for an intimate yet expansive presentation and freedom that only a small ensemble can bring to the mix. Music like the plethora of piano trios heard today there are those that simply play the standards, collect their check and are off to the next gig as memorable as chewing gum is once you are finished with it. Formanism goes in the memorable pile as a stellar guitar trio release that lingers long after the last note is played.

The bopish "Formanism" opens this gem with an innovative swing and lyrical sense of purpose while Forman walks a harmonic tightrope and the trio shifts dynamics on the fly. What comes to the front all most immediately is the natural ease and flow, no self indulgent six string pyrotechnics here. "Blue Jake" is an infectious slightly blues infused vamp that highlights the clean and crisp sound of Forman's classic jazz guitar. Gabe Noel and Jake Reed are treasures on this gem with a deceptively subtle swing that is hard to ignore. A groove you use. A beat you hear with your feet. An absolute winner. "Obstacle Course" is a smokin' nasty with Forman and the trio seemingly engaged in a private musical conversation we are simply blessed to overhear. Bruce Forman has never sounded better and with the addition of Noel on bass and Reed on drums there is an absolute musical cohesion that is unmistakable.

The great aspect or perhaps most daunting task when it comes to playing in a trio is there is no place to run and hide. Forman and his trio need no such hiding place. An absolutely exquisite recording from beginning to end. Perhaps it would be best to close with the last portion of the liner notes from Brick Wahl (really):

"Sometimes notes really do give a shit about sounding good."

5 Stars!

BRUCE FORMAN TRIO/Formanism: In terms of coming out with clean, tasty lines, Forman is in touch with his inner Wes Montgomery, but that’s where it ends. Very much a jazz guitarist in touch with his own talents, Forman’s first trio date this century yields nothing less than one stellar track after another. High octane without being over powering, this is the league leader for what a contemporary jazz guitar trio should sound like. Killer stuff throughout.

Bruce Forman Trio, Formanism: A new release by the Bruce Forman Trio! Check it out at the B4Man-Music link above, copies and downlads available at CDBaby and iTunes, for an autograhed copy, contact Bruce from the media page on this site.

Bruce Forman in residence at USC: Now in his sixth year on staff, Bruce says, "It is an honor and a privelege to be a part of such an esteemed institution. The students and faculty are world class, all contibuting to an inspring environment."

Cow Bop featured at festivals round the world: Montreal Jazz, Monterey Jazz, Manawatu (New Zealand), Sisters Folk Festival, Los Angeles Guitar Fest, National Cowboy Gathering (Elko), Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, Monterey Cowboy Festival, many about crossover!!!

Too HIck for the Room! Cow Bop's third! Getting rave reviews, check it out at:

Cow Bop a hit in cyberspace! On Nov. 19, the band played a concert in the amphitheater at Micheal Nesmith's Videoranch. The avatars and the studio audience had a ball and all agreed that Cow Bop was the best virtual band going!! "The wave of the yesterday's prices!" exclaimed Bruce. Bruce Forman makes the cover of Just Jazz Guitar Magazine (August 2006 issue). Congratulations Bruce!!

Bruce Forman is back as artist-in-residence this semster at USC's Studio Jazz Guitar Dept. "What an honor to be asked back. The students and faculty are top-notch."

'On the Edge' a great success! After playing their way up the California coast with only $100 and unable to live off pre-scheduled gigs (all proceeds were donated), Cow Bop experienced srtreet roustings, big-time club hits, extremes sucxh as dining on the $1 meal at McD's to breakfasting at the Ritz and crossed the finish line victorious on Sat. August 19th. With a quick stop for a gig they safely delivered Noah Freedman (fiddle) and Gabe Noel (bass) home in time to start school. Miraculous! From preliminary indications, the trip was even more successful in raising funds for JazzMasters Workshop than either of the previous Route 66 jaunts. You can still make a contribution and your pledge will be matched, and go to to read blogs or view podcasts.

Bruce Forman joins USC Studio/Jazz Guitar Dept. as artist-in-residence for spring semster. "I'm looking forward to teaching alongside the great player/educators there and to working with the exciting students...the cream of the crop. Of course, helping share Joe Diorio's position is both humbling and a great honor," says Bruce. "It'll also allow for more playing time down south."

Cow Bop to enter studio in late-Jan. to being recording their next CD. More Cow-lifornia swing we presume! Slated to guest on this recording are: Noel Jewkes and Richard Chon; along with Cowboppers David Jackson, Dan Robbins, Mike McKinley and Pinto Pammy. Release is scheduled for mid-spring.

Cow Bop takes Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival by storm. Three separate performances and a middle school visit. Lots of swingin and tons of fun!

Roger Kellaway Trio: On the heels of the successful Bobby Darin Tribute CD, Roger's Trio w/Bruce and bassist Dan Lutz will be recording a follow up CD. Some of the tunes slated are: Killer Joe, 52nd St. Theme and Midnight Sun.

Cow Bop revisits Route 66 Challenge in support of JazzMasters Workshop. Daily blogs are posted at "It was an odyssey not for the faint of heart...and one' I'll not soon forget," said Bruce.

Goin' Kiwi! Bruce Forman joins New Zealand's Massey University (both Wellinton and Auckland campuses) as 'artist-in residence'. First session: March 1-11.

GUITARS ONLY! Bruce goes to The Fire Station in San Marcos,TX (just outside Austin) to record a three-guitar swing session--American-style. Rounding out the trio is none other than Rich O'Brien and Whit Smith. Let's hope for a imminent release!

Bruce Forman to perform at Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, in guitar summit, Sat. Dec. 4, at 10:30AM. (Check out photos in Cowboys & Indians Magazine's April 2005 issue)

Clint Eastwood to use Bruce Forman's guitar tracks for Million Dollar Baby! "Clint wrote and scored an intriguing piece of music and asked me to adapt it for guitar. I'm glad he liked it and is using it. I can't wait to see/hear it!" exclaimed Bruce.

Roger Kellaway Trio goes into studio to record Bobby Darin Tribute, Nov. 6-8, in Ojai, CA. Look for its release in mid-December. Featured are: Roger Kellaway, Bruce Forman and Dan Lutz.

49er Challenge! Cow Bop takes to the open road again (october 18), this time the route is California's Gold Country. Read all about it!

Bruce asked to join pianist Roger Kellaway's new trio, first gig is October 28 at the Vic in Santa Monica.

Bruce to be honored for commitment and contribution to Monterey Peninsula at the Seaside Jazz & Art Show, Sept 11, Oldemeyer Center, Seaside, CA.

Bruce Forman performs and teaches at The North Wales International Jazz Guitar Festival. Other performers/terachers included: Martin Taylor, Ulf Wakenius, John Pisano, Al Viola, Bobby Broom, Sid Jacobs and Trefor Owen (who organized the festival along with Maureen Hopkins). Pictures can be found on luthier Stefan Sonntag's website:

Bruce Forman chosen to lead masterclass in jazz at the prestigious Bertinoro Music Festival (di Dante Allegheri) in Italy. August 1-5, 2004.

Route 66 Challenge a huge success! The band crossed the finish line May 21, two weeks after their departure from Chicago...with $12 to spare! Check out the detials (journals,pictures) at The band Cow Bop raised funds in dsupport of JazzMasters Workshop.

Monterey Herald, March 23: Getting their kicks on Route 66

Cow Bop takes 'Route 66 Challenge' in support of JazzMasters Workshop. Departing Chicago with a full tank of gas and $100 we will busk, barter and bebop our way to LA. Please support us with your tax-deductible pledge.

Off The Road coverage in Monterey Herald GO Section, Thursday March, 11, 2004

JazzMasters Workshop and Laguna Beach Live announce a partnership with celebratory concert featuring jazz guitar legends, Bruce Forman, Mundell Lowe, John Pisano and Phil Upchurch, along with Luther Hughes, Paul Kreibech and JMW alumni, February 21

Tribute to Barney Kessel w/Bruce Forman, Mundell Lowe and Ned Boynton.
Feb. 10 Workshop* 5:00-7:00pm, students free, adults $20. Concert at 9:00pm, Jazz at Pearl's, San Francisco *Made possible in part by grant from the D'Addario Foundation for the Performing Arts with support from J.D. D'Addario & Company, Inc. & D'Addario Strings

Tour of Italy: Bruce Forman leads trio w/Marco Marzola (b) and Luca Nanni (d) Jan 17-31.
See calendar page

Cow Bop -- a western swing/bebop band--goes into studio to make first CD. Besides Bruce Forman and bandmates: PintoPammy, Mike McKinley and Dan Robbins; the recording features Dan Hicks, David Jackson, George Young and Richard Chon. Release is scheduled for March.

Down Beat Magazine Article featuring JazzMasters Workshop: Jazz on Campus, in Dec 2003 issue Kids Grooving to Jazz; New York Daily News coverage of JMW program

Bruce Forman presented with award for "contributions and commitment to the art of jazz guitar" by Monterey Jazz Festival during perfomance, September 20, 2003.

Bruce Forman joins Jack Wilkins, Mundell Lowe, Julian Lage and JazzMasters Workshop Generations Band at Stanford Jazz Festival's Guitar Summit, August 2, 2003

Coast Weekly designates Bruce Forman as one of "Ten Heroic Citizens of Monterey County"

Bruce Forman receives prestigious "Discretionary Award" from Jazz Journalists Association

Trust Me, Bruce Forman's first published novel hits streets in April 2003. The book is well-received by critics and readers for its zany characters and portrayal of the jazz life.

Getting Kids Jazzed! Monterey County Herald feature story, January 6, 2003