You may be surprised, as I was, to see Shelly Manne listed as drummer on the new CD release, Blues and Other Happy Moments,
by brothers Mike and Gary Barone. The reason is simple: the album was recorded in 1979 and released as an LP on Palo Alto Jazz in 1981. Now, a quarter-century and one millennium later, it has made its way to compact disc.
The brothers are joined on the front line by alto saxophonist Dick Spencer and Tom Scott who plays the seldom-heard lyricon, which in terms of sound resembles a bandoneon with soprano sax overtones. Besides Manne, the rhythm section consists of pianist Theo Saunders, bassist John Heard and percussionist Alex Acuña. A shame we've not heard more on record from Saunders, who plays quite well. As an example, he's really cooking on "Beef Stew when the track mysteriously fades into the sunset.
Gary Barone wrote the first two numbers, "Double Toe and "Stew, Mike the last three, and they are separated by Bruno Brighetti/Bruno Martino's easygoing bossa, "Estate, a showcase for Mike's burnished trombone with more splendid keyboard work from Saunders. Gary's flugelhorn is featured on Mike's ballad, "Song for Our Father, which, like "Beef Stew, simply fades away in mid-note, as does Mike's sunny "Other Happy Moments, presumably choosing the path of least resistance.
The finale, "Almost Blues, is a perky swinger designed to banish anyone's mood indigo, encompassing cordial solos by Mike, Gary (trumpet), Spencer and Saunders, Manne's most assertive moments and typically solid timekeeping by Heard. In sum, a well-played session by first-rank musicians with a couple of strikes against it, namely its LP-length 40:25 playing time and those gratuitous and annoying fadeouts.
As a postscript, Mike Barone's "new large ensemble has an appointment at a recording studio next month with a CD soon to follow. If it's anything like the first one, Live at Donte's 1968, it should be at or near the top of every big-band enthusiast's "must-hear list.
Visit Gary Barone and Mike Barone on the web.
Double Toe; Beef Stew; Estate; Other Happy Moments; Song for Our Father; Almost Blues (40:25).
Mike Barone: trombone; Gary Barone: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Scott: lyricon; Dick
Spencer: alto saxophone; Theo Saunders: piano; John Heard: bass; Shelly Manne: drums;