Mike Barone / National Youth Jazz Orchestra / Vaughn Wiester / Dutch Jazz Orchestra
Mike Barone Big Band
Class of '68
While some may deem composer / arranger / trombonist Mike Barone's latest album gratuitous, those who were introduced to Barone's music via the band's superb recording Live at Donte's, 1968 should take enormous pleasure in hearing further inspired commentary from that remarkably talented Class of '68. In fact, even those who aren't yet acquainted with Barone's erstwhile ensemble may be blown away by big-band jazz that sounds so fresh and stylish that one might easily assume it had been recorded last week or last month.
Once upon a time, Barone's stalwart big band performed every Wednesday evening at Donte's nightclub in North Hollywood, CA. Impromptu recordings of some of the sessions were made by George Jerman using an Ampex 960 tape recorder. "Not exactly state-of-the-art," Barone says, "but they came out just fine." Fine enough to produce the memorable album Live at Donte's, which wasn't released as a CD until 1998. Now, more than a decade onward, Barone has seen fit to redeem more of the music from those free-wheeling club dates, and big-band enthusiasts should be thankful for that decision.
Actually, the first four tracks on Class of '68 were recorded in-studio in January 1969 with essentially the same personnel as at Donte's save for Mike Wofford sitting in for pianist Cliff Bryant, bassist Monty Budwig for Jim Hughart and tenor saxophonist Tom Scott for Bill Hood. Barone wrote three of those four numbers and scored Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road," on which his trombone is featured (as it is on Charlie Loper's arrangement of "Somewhere Along the Way"). Barone's brother, trumpeter Gary, is showcased on "Peachy," another of Mike Barone's half-dozen originals; tenor Lou Ciotti on "Medalist" and the captivating "Waltz This!," Bill Perkins (flute) on "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby," Buddy Childers (flugel) on "More Than You Know." Perkins (alto) and baritone Jack Nimitz trade volleys on the exuberant and aptly named "Perk Up Jack." The Barone brothers and Ciotti solo on the well-knit opener, "The Monster," so-named by alto Med Flory because of its constantly shifting tempos. Flory wrote the powerful "Tempi," on which he and Gary Barone share solo honors. Completing the program is Mike Barone's sauntering "Real Neal" (Hefti), enfolding persuasive statements by the Barones and trumpeter Steve Huffsteter.
Who says you can't go home again? Mike Barone has not only done so, he has invited the rest of us to tag along on a delightful excursion to yesteryear when the indomitable Class of '68 was earning its master's degree in tasteful, high-octane big-band jazz.
National Youth Jazz Orchestra
When You're Ready
So many talented musicians have arisen from the ranks of Britain's superlative National Youth Jazz Orchestra that one can be forgiven for overlooking the fact that a sizable number of its alumni are accomplished composer / arrangers as well. Such is the case with trumpeter Evan Jolly whose music forms the bedrock of NYJO's latest album, When You're Ready, subtitled "NYJO Plays the Compositions and Arrangements of Evan Jolly." Jolly wrote four of the dozen selections, redesigned three others and arranged all of them including five of director Bill Ashton's vocal compositions, two each by Sarah Ellen Hughes and Atila Huseyin, one more by Lauren Derwent.
The album was recorded in three sessions, two in front of an appreciative audience (2005, 2008) at Ronnie Scott's nightclub in London, the last track (featuring Sir John Dankworth on alto sax) in 2006 in-studio at Joe & Co. On the review copy a two-minute break follows "Sir Johnny Comes Marching Home," after which the band returns, clearly live again, to back Ashton as he buoyantly reprises "Paris Is for Lovers," this time in French (Huseyin sings it earlier in English). An unlisted but nonetheless rewarding "bonus."