New York first-call guitarist Jeff Barone's Open Up creates a platform that covers a range of song types for the leader/composer and his colleaguesall acesto work both as a terrific team and highly inventive soloists. There's everything here from Barone's beautiful solo strums to hard-swinging, straight-ahead jazz.
Barone's "Duban's Groove," written for alto saxophonist Mike Dubaniewicz, kicks off with a nice call-and-response with trumpet master Joe Magnarelli filling in and soloing beautifully. Dubaniewicz, a standout with Maynard Ferguson's Band is an inventive alto voice who blows nicely on this eponymous tune. "New Samba" keeps up the momentum with B-3 organist Ron Oswanski, another Ferguson alum who seems perfect on this date, shining by playing bass lines and comping nicely behind the ensemble and solos. With a tasteful, understated approach, his wonderfully constructed solos show his respect for the power of his instrument.
Barone is generous on this first session for the group, giving everyone room to stretch out. His own first extended solo feature is Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away," a tune that provides Barone the opportunity to display his awesome technical, harmonic and melodic chops. The title track possesses shades of Chuck Mangione, with Dubaniewicz and Magnarelli blowing energetically in ascending crescendos. Drummer Rudy Petschauer plays with taste, never stepping on toes and keeping things swinging nicely throughout the session.
"Jenna's Song," a beautiful ballad written years ago, but dedicated here to Barone's now five year-old daughter, brings in Chopin "Nocturne" quotes, by way of guest guitarist/co-producer, Jack Wilkins, before displaying Barone's wonderful compositional sense. The moving piece is touching without being saccharine or sentimental, thanks to Barone's sensitive touch and melodic feel. There are two versions of "Falling in Love with Love," with the alternate take at the album's end extraneous to the final, more up-tempo take heard earlier onthe most straight -ahead track of the session and it cooks.
The classic "Here's That Rainy Day" shows Barone's impeccable sense of time and phrasing as he sets up the melody and ensuing solos. Magnarelli's glorious tone and lyrical take are sublime, never placing technique ahead of taste. "I Hear Music" swings straight-ahead, with Barone and Dubaniewicz taking off on energetic solo rides and the saxophonist proving that he can go "Birding" with the best of them. "My Funny Valentine" displays Barone's fine technique, harmonic chopsand atomic clock timing. "Toys," a quirky Herbie Hancock original, lets the group blow over an extended Thelonious Monk-like melody before Magnarelli opens up into a bluesy, swinging solo. "Quiet Now" is just that, with Barone's tone and touch impeccable and Wilkins once again guesting.
Open Up should definitely do just thatopen up more creative avenues and opportunities for Barone and these wonderful solo artists. It is solid, swinging stuff.
Duban's Groove; New Samba; If You Go Away; Open Up; Jenna's Song; Falling in Love with Love; Here's That Rainy Day; I Hear Music; My Funny Valentine; Toys; Quiet Now; Falling in Love with Love (Alternate Take).
Jeff Barone: electric and nylon-string guitar; Jack Wilkins: guitar (5, 11); Joe Magnarelli: trumpet; Ron Oswanski: B-3 organ; Mike Dubaniewicz: alto saxophone; Rudy Petschauer: drums.