How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Seattle-based composer / trumpeter Daniel Barry, whom we first encountered in a big-band setting, leads a talented octet through its paces on Red Fish Blue Fish, which encompasses eleven of his colorful compositions / arrangements and one ("Chemo Receptor") by drummer Chris Monroe. This is bracing contemporary Jazz, shrewdly written for and dexterously performed by the group. Much of it is through-composed with solos arising naturally in context and never overshadowing the ensemble's orchestral purpose. That's not to downplay the power of the solo passages, most of which are exemplary, but rather to reinforce the notion that Barry's persuasive charts form the solid bedrock on which the ensemble rests. A Latin undercurrent guides the craft on "Baba Rum Dum," "Two to Tango," "To and Fro" and "The Hiding Place," while an African motif enlivens the playful "Nandini." The curtain-raising "Ancestors" is taken from a larger work, "Of Ancestors, Children and Spirits," commissioned by the Seattle Arts Commission and Earshot Jazz for a tribute to the late saxophonist Jim Pepper; "Suicide in Bb" includes themes written for a theatrical production of Sam Shepherd's play of that name. Monroe is featured on "In the Beginning," Susan Pascal whose hushed vibraphone often sounds like a marimba on "Speakeasy." The members of the group have been playing together on various gigs in the Seattle area (including the Jazz Police big band) for about ten years, and the rapport is evident as they explore, in Barry's words, "a wide range of sonic textures that balance substantive through-composed ensemble passages with extensive solo and collective improvisation." It takes a resourceful rhythm section to press home his musical concepts, and Barry has one in Monroe, vibraphonist Pascal, bassist David Pascal and guitarist Greg Fulton. Tenor Mike West is the most frequently heard soloist with Barry adding incisive commentary on "Baba Rum Dum," "Suicide in Bb," "To and Fro" and "The Hiding Place," trombonist Steve Kirk on "Suicide," "Two to Tango" and "Nandini," bassist Pascal on "Still Life," guitarist Fulton on "Tango." While Barry's octet is by and large unknown outside its narrow sphere of influence, that shouldn't deter the prospective listener / buyer, as the music it espouses seldom fails to please.
Contact: Daniel Barry Publications, 4125 38th Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98126; phone 206?938?3320; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Track Listing: Ancestors; Baba Rum Dum; Suicide in Bb; Still Life; Two to Tango; In the Beginning; To & Fro; Nandini; Chemo Receptor; Speakeasy; The Hiding Place; Sleep Baby Sleep (63:10).
Personnel: Daniel Barry, composer, arranger, trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone; Dennis Haldane, trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike West, tenor, alto saxophone, flute; Steve Kirk, trombone; Greg Fulton, guitars; Susan Pascal, vibraphone; David Pascal, acoustic, electric bass; Chris Monroe, drums, percussion.