Not much information is given about composer / arranger / trumpeter Daniel Barry on either of these splendid albums by Seattle’s Jazz Police but that’s not really important, as his engaging music speaks eloquently enough for itself. We’ve now heard three contemporary big bands from the Seattle area and each of them has been well above the norm. And having chanced upon one superb composer / arranger in Matso Limtiako of the Emerald City Jazz Orchestra, it’s a pleasure to uncover another hidden treasure in Barry. While his music isn’t easily limned in a few words, pianist Jovino Santos Neto comes reasonably close in his liner notes to The Music of Daniel Barry,
writing that the composer produces “a wide spectrum of colors, creating an aural rainbow of moods” and “knows how to speak the language of the big band, . . .avoiding easy clichés and focusing on the untouched possibilities of the ensemble.” A credibly accurate summary.
On the earlier Phantom Suite, Barry even invades the world of the classics (Puccini’s poignant “Un Bel Di” from Madama Butterfly ) and pop music (The Platters’ “Only You”), using as his paramount weapon the voice of soprano Tamara Wimer who’s admirable on the former, overly breathless and theatrical on the latter. Wimer is also heard (with tenor saxophonist Dean Mochizuki) on Barry’s ballad, “From Another World.” Barry leads with his strength, the charming seven–minutes–plus “Phantom Suite” whose infectious Latin rhythms bespeak the influence of Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Chico O’Farrill, Machito and other masters of the genre. Soprano saxophonist Greg Metcalf, trombonist Steve Kirk and percussionist Ernesto Pediangco are the soloists on the suite, Barry (flugel) and tenor Mochizuki on Barry’s colorful arrangement of Frank Foster’s “Simone,” which follows. Metcalf and vibraphonist Susan Pascal share center stage on another Latin charmer, “Baby Weezer.” “Un Bel Di” is next, followed by three more of Barry’s compositions, the swaying “Easy Palm Drive” (Mike West, tenor; Nonda Trimis, drums), groovy “Will Power” (Mochizuki, tenor; Daniel Haeck, trombone) and lyrical “Peasant’s Lullabye” (Barry, trumpet; Doug Zanger, guitar). After Wimer’s unexciting vocals on “Only You” and “Another World,” the band wraps things up with the laid–back but no less rhythmically emphatic “Savanna” (West, tenor; Larry Barilleau, timbales).
“To and Fro,” which raises the curtain on the candidly named second disc, reminds one of something Chick Corea might have written (“Spain,” “La Fiesta” — along those lines) albeit a tad less ambitious and stormy than either of those Andalusian benchmarks. Unlike Phantom Suite, every piece on this album is Barry’s, and taken as a whole they’re quite handsomely dressed. Most of them disclose Barry’s fondness for vibrant Latin–leaning rhythms; only the two features for tenor sax, “Ancestors” (Jim West) and “Miss. Leisure” (Jim Cutler) are more Jazz– than Latin–influenced. “Two to Tango” is clearly that, as, apparently, is “The Hiding Place.” I’d single out the others for you if I were able to apprehend the difference between a samba, a bossa and a cha–cha. Whatever they are, they’re admirably scored by Barry and ably performed by the Jazz Police. “Sleep Baby Sleep,” a gentle lullaby, is followed by the dynamic “Black Bean Boss” (solos by alto Metcalf and pianist Neto), a soaring ”Phoenix” (Barry, trumpet; Metcalf, flute) and picturesque “In the Beginning . . .” (actually the ending) whose delightful theme is accentuated by bass clarinetist Jim DeJoie, percussionist Nonda Trimis and drummer Chris Monroe. Two exceptional albums by yet another well–endowed composer / arranger and big band from Seattle.
Contact: Daniel Barry Publications, 4125 38th Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98126; phone 206–938–3320; e–mail email@example.com