Six years ago the CD reissue of Mike Barone's album Live at Donte's 1968 was number two on my annual list of the top ten jazz recordings. To say I was looking forward to Mike's next album would be an understatement. Here it is, only 37 years later (!), and I am delighted to report that time has neither impeded Barone's prolific creativity nor lessened his propensity to swing. In other words, Live 2005! is almost worth the 37-year wait.
Where has Barone been all these years? Busy, for the most part, composing and arranging (twenty-three years with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show band, several Academy Award shows, various television shows and films). But once you've recorded with a big band, the urge to do so again never seems to go away. Barone had been waiting for his chance, and it arrived this year when he put together a band for a concert performance at the Rosalie & Alva Performance Gallery in San Pedro, California. I wish I'd been there, but this is the next best thingone of the most dynamic and engaging big-band albums to come down the pike in quite some time, one of only a handful that can reasonably be compared to Live at Donte's.
Everything takes wing with Barone's splendid charts, which seem to inspire everyone to perform at peak capacity. The ensemble is smoking throughout, and what a great rhythm section! Drummer Paul Kreibich is monstrous, as are pianist John Proulx and bassist Chris Connernot to mention the split-lead trumpets, Lee Thornburg and Pete DeSiena. Once again, Barone has unearthed a song that leads one to shake his head in wonder and say, "Wow! Where'd he come up with that one? On Donte's it was the western classic "Tumbling Tumbleweeds. This time, it's a Shelton Brooks composition from 1917, "Darktown Strutters Ball. The arrangement is marvelous, but no more so than every other one, from "When You're Smiling to Chick Corea's "Friends (what an exciting way to end a concert). I never thought I'd hear an arrangement of "Smiling as persuasive as Tom Kubis's, but Barone has demolished that assumption. He makes everything swing incessantly, from the standards "As Time Goes By, "How Deep Is the Ocean and "Love Locked Out to Bobby Jaspar's "Cette Chose, J.J. Johnson's "Lament and his own originals, "Grungy Bungee and "Road Kill.
A word about the soloists, and the word is awesome. Tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts (always a kick to hear) is featured on "Friends" and "Smiling, tenor Vince Trombetta on "Strutters Ball, alto Keith Bishop on "Love Locked Out, trumpeter Steve Huffsteter on "Time Goes By. Barone solos with Trombetta on "Lament, with alto Kim Richmond on "Ocean, with Bishop (soprano) and Conner on "Cette Chose. Proulx and Watts spruce up the pungent "Road Kill, baritone Jennifer Hall and trumpeter Ron King take the plunge on "Bungee.
This is one of those albums wherein all of the pieces fit so snugly together that there's not much one can say except "bravo and please don't make us wait another 37 years for a sequel.
Mike Barone, composer, arranger, leader, trombone soloist; Lee Thornburg, Pete DeSiena, Ron King, Steve Huffsteter, trumpet; Kim Richmond, Keith Bishop, Ernie Watts; Vince Trombetta, Jennifer Hall, reeds; Charlie Loper, Dick Hamilton, Bill Booth, Bryant Byers, trombone; John Proulx, piano; Chris Conner, bass; Paul Kreibich, drums.