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Bootsie Barnes & Larry McKenna: The More I See You

Jack Bowers By

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What a genuine pleasure it is to hang loose and appreciate the warm and enticing sounds and impressive teamwork of Philadelphia tenor saxophone legends Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna, a couple of seasoned pros who blend together as smoothly as marmalade on toast. It has been said—more than once—that experience is the best teacher, that there's no substitute for experience, that—well, you get the idea. Between them, Barnes and McKenna have more than a century of musical experience at their beck and call with a couple of decades to spare. That's experience they don't lose sight of even for a moment on The More I See You, a superb studio session that enlivens the spirit and gladdens the heart from start to finish.

Barnes and McKenna make it known from the outset that swinging is their mission and bop is their language of choice. The tenors are ably abetted in that endeavor by organist Lucas Brown and a longtime friend and neighbor from Philly, drummer Byron "Wookie" Landham. Besides working in tandem on seven of the album's nine numbers, each of the co-leaders has his own handsome ballad showcase: McKenna, "You've Changed"; Barnes, Kurt Weill's "My Ship." Barnes wrote the vigorous "Three Miles Out," McKenna the groove-laden finale, "Don't Redux the Reflux." Rounding out the engaging Philly-stamped bill of fare are Jimmy Heath's "For Minors Only," Hank Mobley's "The Breakthrough," Peter Nero's "Sunday in New York" and Henry Mancini's well-known theme from the television series "Mr. Lucky."

While the leaders speak virtually the same harmonic language, separating them in the mind's eye is rather easy, as Barnes has a moderately heavier sound and has been recorded slightly to the left of center, McKenna to the right. The intensity doesn't wane when Brown takes the driver's seat, as he proves to be a sharp and able soloist. As for Landham, he makes the most of his solo turns on "For Minors Only" and "The Breakthrough." Even so, it is Barnes and McKenna whose purpose is to warm the heart and brighten the landscape, and they never fail to please.

Track Listing: The More I See You; For Minor’s Only; Three Miles Out; Mr. Lucky; You Changed; Sunday In New York; The Break Through; My Ship; Don’t Redux The Reflux.

Personnel: Larry McKenna: tenor saxophone (Except Track 8); Bootsie Barnes: tenor saxophone (Except Track 5); Lucas Brown: Hammond B3 organ; Byron Landham: drums.

Title: The More I See You | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Cellar Live

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