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Bootsie Barnes: Bootsie Barnes: Boppin' Round the Center

Victor L. Schermer By

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This CD featuring Bootsie Barnes and a group assembled for the occasion has one characteristic uncommon in an era of so-called 'smooth jazz,' rap singing, and canned music for every occasion from cinematically simulated inner city rumbles to drugs for erectile dysfunction. It really swings! It also 'bops around the center!' (I truly don't know what that means, but I like the phraseology. Forgive me for speculating, with a touch of humor, that it refers either to key changes or some community center where Bootsie hung out as a kid with his pals, James Moody and Bill Cosby).

Barnes indicates, on the CD cover, that this was his first opportunity to conceive the entire recording, including tunes and musicians. The tunes are a fine mixture of standards and originals, ballads and up tempo. The musicians are even better. Swana is superb, beautifully matches Barnes' phrasing and ideas, and is a good deal less reserved than on some of his other recordings. Derrick Hodge, Craig McIver, and Farid Barron are young guys who've already been around quite a bit. I hesitate to call them 'young lions,' because there's no egotism attached to their playing, which is paradoxically both fresh and original, as well as embodying the flavors of many generations of the jazz scene.

Musicians and fans often try to figure out whom Barnes sounds like. Bob Perkins, who wrote the liner notes, thinks of Dexter Gordon. There are also touches of Charlie Parker, Lester Young and John Coltrane, as well as subtle hints of Johnny Hodges and Art Pepper. I talked briefly with Barnes at Chris' Jazz Café recently, and he spoke of how he played with Sonny Stitt, among many others in the pantheon. You can definitely hear that classi bebop phrasing on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Felicidad," which seems to undergo various metamorphoses in the group's capable hands.

The truth is—as Perkins points out—Barnes sounds like no one but himself. This quiet, gentle man, who could easily inhabit a back porch in the Georgia countryside and is, in fact, a true artist of the genre. He has mastered what J.J. Johnson called the "jazz syntax," what the Zen Buddhists call "the way" of jazz. He doesn't need to emulate other saxophonists because he knows intuitively what the music is about at its center.

Though this CD isn't breaking new territory, it honors tradition and gives it a freshness rarely heard these days. Most of all, it offers thoroughly enjoyable listening, even sort of addictive. That's because Barnes has really got the rhythm.

Tracks: Cosby's Capers aka Boppin' Round the Center; Young and Foolish; Minor Mishap; Soul Trane; Three Miles Out; All the Way; You Taught My Heart to Sing; Roy's Idea; Felicidad.

Personnel: Robert "Bootsie" Barnes: tenor saxophone; Farid Barron: piano; Derrick Hodge: bass; Craig McIver: drums; John Swana: trumpet.

Track Listing: Cosby's Capers aka Boppin' Round the Center; Young and Foolish; Minor Mishap; Soul Trane; Three Miles Out; All the Way; You Taught My Heart to Sing; Roy's Idea; Felicidad.

Personnel: Robert "Bootsie" Barnes: tenor saxophone; Farid Barron: piano; Derrick Hodge: bass; Craig McIver: drums; John Swana: trumpet.

Title: Bootsie Barnes: Boppin' Round the Center | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Harvest Records


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