Mike Moreno: Between The Lines (2007)
Guitarist Mike Moreno, originally from Houston, Texas and now in New York City for the last ten years, has created in Between the Lines a remarkable release that makes an immediate impact while also having much depth.
Jazz is less a musical language and more a musical attitude in which personal expression is paramount. Moreno has developed a style that is quite recognizable, based on what he composes and arranges, how he plays and what he plays. This achievement belies his youth and establishes him as a mature artist.
Although Between the Lines is a debut album, Moreno has appeared on many other projects including Jeremy Pelt's Identity (Max Jazz, 2005), John Ellis' By a Thread (Hyena, 2006) and Marcus Strickland's Open Reel Deck (Strick Muzik, 2007), which was recorded live.
Technical facility is one thing, and Moreno has it in spades; but that is expected at this point. He chooses a liquid tone with reverb that is very attractive, and when it is combined with the lines that he plays, a sensuous atmosphere that is inviting and seductive is created.
The things that make this recording so vibrant and impressive are the compositions themselves, which have long-limbed melodies that unfold very naturally with subtle harmony, while surprising at almost every turn. Meanwhile, the arrangements turn each track into a miniature dramatic story. These are not "tunes" in the common sense, nor are they soundscapes, but a combination of the two that carries the listener along on the crest of a wave.
The actual recording also helps create that effect, since the instruments are not so much separated as layered, placing the listener in the middle of the musical swirl. The main band consists of Moreno, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Kendrick Scott, with saxophonists John Ellis and Marcus Strickland guesting on some tracks and drummer Tyshawn Sorey appearing on the last track.
The band creates an organic sound that is very alive, and much of the credit must go to the superb playing of Parks. He is in constant touch with Moreno and finds seemingly endless ways to make his accompaniment mesh with what the guitarist is doing at any moment. When Parks get a chance to solo, the players reverse roles, and once again sound as one.
Although not quite as integrated an album, Between the Lines can easily be compared to guitarist Miles Okazaki's Mirror in its depth and intensity. Moreno is most definitely a player, composer and arranger of import and a musician to watch closely.
Track Listing: World of the Marionettes; Old Wise Tale; Forward and Back; Gondola; Road Song; Between the Lines; Still Here; Uncertainty.
Personnel: Mike Moreno: electric and acoustic guitars; John Ellis: tenor and soprano saxophones (3, 6, 8); Marcus Strickland: tenor saxophone (1, 2); Aaron Parks: piano; Doug Weiss: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums (1-6); Tyshawn Sorey: drums (8).