After more than three decades as a Hollywood film producer, drummer Richard Baratta seemed ideally placed to bring together the worlds of film and jazz, releasing two albums focusing on songs from the movies. The first of these, Music In Film: The Reel Deal (Savant Records, 2020) gained a Grammy nomination for pianist Bill O'Connell's arrangement of the Euphemia Allen composition, "Chopsticks." Baratta followed this up with Music in Film: The Sequel. His third album, Off The Charts, changes focus completely; the film tunes are discarded as he targets compositions by some of the well-known jazz composers and performers of the '60s and '70s. To his credit, he has curated an inspired set-list of some of the lesser known and seldom played tracks from the period. He also covers the styles from this time, ranging from straight-ahead to funk to Latin.
Used to dealing with A-list actors, Baratta brings the same approach to assembling his musicians, forming a core piano trio with pianist David Kikoski and bassist John Patitucci. This trio is enhanced by tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, on five of the nine tracks, together with percussionist Paul Rossman.
Opening with "Herzog" from Bobby Hutcherson's album, Total Eclipse (Blue Note, 1969), they set off at a bustling pace which grows in intensity as Bergonzi and Kikowski make the most of their time in the spotlight, while Baratta offers plenty of embellishments and some furious solo flurries. There is a change of pace with the bossa-flavoured rhythms of Joe Ferrell's "Molten Glass," with a notable bass contribution from Patitucci. "Blackberry Winter," written by pianist Alec Wilder and lyricist Loonis McGlohon, is a gentle delight. Bergonzi and Kikoski are at their lyrical best over Baratta's brushes.
"Peresina" is another album highlight. It is taken from McCoy Tyner's Expansions (Blue Note, 1970) and is the perfect vehicle to showcase Kikowski's fluent and flowing piano. The shifting Latin rhythms and swing are enhanced by Rossman's percussion. Charles Lloyd's "Sombrero Sam" is a drum and percussion pleasure which has more flowing piano from Kikowski with Bergonzi interjecting sax before going on to solo. Kikowski is nimble and fluent on a top-class swinging trio version of Chick Corea's "Tones for Joan's Bones."
Elsewhere, the band plug-in for Joe Henderson's "Afro-Centric"; Wayne Shorter's "Lost" features the trio format with a neat solo from Patitucci and they close an outstanding session with "Out of This World," written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Burke, which first appeared on John Coltrane's album, Coltrane (GRP, 1962). All of the composers featured on the album, with the exception of Charles Lloyd, are no longer with us, but their compositions live on with Baratta and his vibrant cast bringing them up to date for the attention of present-day audiences. Highly recommended.
Herzog; Molten Glass; Blackberry Winter; Peresina; Afro-Centric; Lost; Sombrero Sam; Tones for Joan’s Bones; Out of This World.
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