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Steve Barta lands squarely on the Jazz radar with this acclaimed collaboration with Herbie Mann.
I met Steve Barta this past Holiday Season. He was demonstrating his most recent self- produced release The Twelve Days of Christmas (previously reviewed in these pages). Barta was joined by the esteemed flautist, Herbie Mann on a very Bossa "Christmas Song" on that outing. At the time, he told me there was much more of the same to be found on this release, Blue River. Indeed, there was. Blue River is the best Latin-influenced jazz recording I heard in 2000.
Comprised of ten Barta originals, Blue River exists in shades of Bossa Nova. Never does it become a rehash or poor imitation of Jobim. Barta is a careful technician, his care being most manifested in his intricate lace of composition. His songs are well crafted and have the soft texture of silk warmed by a wood fire. The total of this disc is the concept of inspiration and how different inspirations reveal themselves through composition and performance. Barta's performance, as well as that of Mann, is precise and understated, even during the more technical pieces. There is no excess here, only the correct notes are played.
Taken in total, Blue River is a light Bossa tone poem, a perfect mood piece providing just enough spice to be intriguing and enough softness to sooth.
Track Listing: Wish Upon A Canvas; Blue River; In Another Life; Like An Old Piano;
Rossport; Carinho; The High Road; Asleep In The Sweet Light; Umtradah;
On The Edge; Blue River. (Total Time: 48:55)
Personnel: Steve Barta: Keyboards; Herbie Mann: Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute;
Michael Shapiro: Drums , Percussion; Ricky Sebastian: Drums; Ricardo
Silveira: Guitar; Bruce Dunlap: Guitar; Paul Socolaw: Bass; Jerry Watts:
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.