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Richard Baratta: Off The Charts

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Richard Baratta: Off The Charts
Drummer Richard Baratta's third album, Off the Charts, is a play on words, as he and his bandmates have taken lesser- known themes from a number of jazz masters that flew under the radar—in other words, were "off the charts"—and given them a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, to help redeem them from what Baratta considers an undeserved obscurity.

The composers in question are Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Farrell, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd and Chick Corea, and the results are mixed, although they lean more toward commendable than uncalled-for, thanks largely to the artistry of those involved. The fact is that most of these songs remained "off the charts" for good reason; while they certainly aren't disagreeable, neither do they lean within the range of memorable. Which is one reason why—with one exception—they have not been revisited often. The outlier is Corea's melodious "Tones for Joan's Bones," which has been covered by a number of groups and is given its due here, with bright solos by bassist John Patitucci and pianist David Kikoski and admirable brush work by Baratta.

Completing the program are Alec Wilder/Loonis McGlohon's seldom-heard "Blackberry Winter" and the Harold Arlen/Johnny Burke standard, "Out of This World." To interpret them, Baratta employs an ensemble consisting for the most part of Kikoski, Patitucci, tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and percussionist Paul Rossman, all of whom seem to be having great fun performing together. That is nowhere more apparent than on the opening track, Hutcherson's fast-moving "Herzog," which bears all the earmarks of a freewheeling jam session, as Bergonzi and Kikoski slice through the changes with abandon, Baratta adds some forceful licks and Patitucci keeps the rhythm cooking.

Farrell's "Molten Glass" is a pleasant waltz, Tyner's "Peresina" more of the same with a Latin kick, Henderson's "Afro-Centric" an assertive hard-bop theme on which Kikoski moves to electric piano and Patitucci to electric bass, Baratta has some formidable moments and Bergonzi reveals his more strident side. Kikoski and Patitucci stand out on Shorter's easygoing "Lost," while Baratta provides the lion's share of firepower (and another thundering solo) on Lloyd's boisterous "Sombrero Sam."

In sum, an above-average session whose pluses far outweigh any minuses, even though it is unlikely to lend currency or staying power to the chosen compositions, most of which began life Off the Charts for good reason and are likely to remain there despite the best efforts of Baratta and his talented colleagues to revive them.

Track Listing

Herzog; Molten Glass; Blackberry Winter; Peresina; Afro-Centric; Lost; Sombrero Sam; Tones for Joan’s Bones; Out of This World.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Jerry Bergonzi: Saxophone (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Paul Rossman: Percussion (2, 4, 5, 7).

Album information

Title: Off The Charts | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Savant Records


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