1. Sudden Lee
(For Lee Russo)
2. Time for Tyner
(For McCoy Tyner)
3. Teardrops From Home
(For Kristen Swota)
4. Brother Steve
(For Steve Lambert)
5. It’s Only Been a Day
(For Jackie Brennan)
6. Ivory Romance
(For Lee Shaw)
7. Blowin’ It Out
(For Ralph Lalama)
Joe Magnarelli – trumpet & flugelhorn
Jon Gordon – alto & soprano sax
Dave Solazzo – piano
Lou Smaldone - bass
Joe Barna – leader, composer, and drums
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click here to learn more about Joe Barna
JOE BARNA & SKETCHES of INFLUENCE
Blowin’ It Out – Live @ Bread & Jam Café
by Tom Pierce
Joe Barna has clearly established a unique track record the past few years journeying to New York City and arranging for many exciting, well-respected Jazz veterans (eg Ralph Lalama, Jerry Weldon, Joe Magnarelli, Jon Gordon, Gary Smulyan, etc) to perform with him at a number of “below the radar” Capitol District venues, uncovered by his dogged determination.
Earlier this year, his passion & persistence took him to a new level with a CD project that culminated in a live recording featuring Magnarelli & Gordon, on April 2-3, 2010 at the sadly now closed Bread & Jam Café in Cohoes. Having attended and enjoyed one of those sessions, this reviewer was anxious to hear how much of the quality and excitement of these performances was effectively captured on the CD - a goal that is often not easily achieved.
The music consists of seven originals composed by Barna, each inspired by and dedicated to artists (legendary or peers) and others important to him. An initial assessment of the type recording (As also implied by the CD title) would be a prototypical late 1950’s/1960’s straight-ahead, no nonsense, Hard Bop blowing session. This is in the classic style of the leading combos of that period, such as Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers and the Cannonball Adderley & Horace Silver’s quintets.
This strain of jazz that is a big favorite of Barna & the other band members (as well as this writer) represented a melodically listenable, soulful, and rhythmically looser extension of the seminal mid-1940’s Be-Bop created by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. It has evolved over the past 50 plus years (with the inclusion of Modal, Avante Garde, Afro-Cuban, Brazillian, Fusion and other influences) to often be referred to as Post-Bop, and serves as a major part of the foundation of today’s broad modern Jazz mainstream – still stimulating, challenging, and pleasingly familiar, but not dated.
The format of most (but not all) of the tunes was the time-honored sequence of melody statement, solos, trading fours & melody restatement, typically done at an uptempo pace. But the recording has more than enough of a sophisticated, but natural vibe, tight construction, and earnestly engaging interplay to pass this listener’s basic CD test: Is it interesting and stirring enough to go back to more than twice?
All five of the medium/uptempo numbers were solidly engaging in both their design & execution, with the title track’s robust staccato-like melody line particularly catchy. But I personally found that the most distinctive Barna compositions were two that departed from the above format and tempo. “Teardrops From Home” has a graceful and pleasing melody that avoids sounding like a lament, but rather conjured images of two lovers leisurely strolling through a park. And “Ivory Romance” was an especially poignant showcase not only for Dave Solazzo’ s Bill Evans influences, but also the obviously deep respect, influence and affection Barna has for the esteemed pianist Lee Shaw – a side of this power drummer many may not be aware of.
The two exceptional frontline veterans consistently demonstrated why Barna was so eager to convince them to travel up from New York for this project. Joe Magnarelli’ s soaring, but lyrically appealing approach evoked pleasant memories of the late, dynamic Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn. And Jon Gordon’s virtuoso but tasteful command of the alto reminded one of both Art Pepper and Phil Woods, with the bonus of an intriguingly different voice on soprano sax.
Some additional impressions I had of Magnarelli & Gordon include: the passionate, full, rich tone of both; the outstanding ability of each new soloist to maintain the energy surge and take off from the ending idea thread of the preceding soloist; and the reasonable length solos by both horn men that avoided unnecessary and frenetic repetition of individual notes & phrases.
As for the impressive rhythm section, their sparkling comping provided
wonderfully supportive punctuation and drive, that highlighted the ideas of the soloists; and they adroitly discharged their primary responsibility of maintaining a swinging pulse, to ensure the listener a smooth, lilting ride.
Pianist Dave Solazzo merits particular attention for his uplifting, energetic playing that balances swinging exuberance with elegance. In this type music, his obvious listening to Horace Silver is delightfully borne out. It was also a treat to hear in this combo setting, the booming “bottom” of Lou “Country Time” Smaldone’ s bass even more dramatically than in Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble. Acknowledgement should also be paid to the leader, Joe Barna, who focused almost exclusively on driving the band’s groove, rather than taking solos. But his sticks on the ride cymbal sounded crisp, clean & consistent to this observer.
Speaking of which, a special salute is due to Mr Pray, for very generously serving as sound engineer, drawing on his experience in doing three CD’s with his own bands. I was particularly happy to hear how well he ensured a good sound balance between all 3 members of the rhythm section and the horns, as well as the crowd noise, which was picked up to enough to capture the “live feel” without intruding on the music.
I was one who gratefully “came of age” in the late 1950’s to 1960’s, while eagerly enjoying live in New York, the type of music that Barna & company so earnestly emulate in this CD. Therefore, I find it hard not to be moved - not only by the expressive warmth and talent of these five musicians and all the support many others extended to him to make it possible, but above all, by Barna’s resolute commitment & passion to accomplish this worthwhile recording.
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 45 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland the last 8 years, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz and the SwingTime Society in a variety of ways.