"Mike Barone Big Band at the Jazz Bakery"
by BOB COMDEN
LA Jazz Scene - February 2006
Trombonist, arranger, composer and big band leader Mike Barone had a CD release party at The Jazz Bakery in January. The CD, Mike Barone Big Band Live 2005, was recorded at the Rosalie & Alva Performance Gallery on September 25, 2005 for Rhubarb Recordings. Barone is a marvelous arranger, best known for writing for The Tonight Show, when Johnny Carson was the host. Many of Barone's arrangements were played by Doc Severinsen and the band.
At the Jazz Bakery a full house of fans and fellow musicians came out to hear this exciting group. Barone's arrangements are challenging and take a high level of musicianship to come off note perfect. Barone's All-Star ensemble consisted of: Steve Huffsteter, Lee Thornburg (lead), Pete DeSiena (split-lead), Larry Lunetta-trumpets; Dick Hamilton, Charlie Loper, Bill Booth, Craig Gosnell, Mike Barone-trombones; Jennifer Hall, Kim Richmond, Keith Bishop, Ernie Watts, Vince Trombetta-saxes; John Proulx-piano; Joel Hamilton-bass; and Paul Kreibich-drums. The band was in top form and executed the difficult charts with ease.
The set opened with a samba written by Chick Corea titled "Friends." It breezed along at a nice clip with smooth ensemble playing by the band, crisp brass lines and Watts' explosive tenor solo. Kreibich's drums pushed the band with an exciting pulse and DeSiena's outstanding lead trumpet was sizzling.
"Dat Dere" written by Bobby Timmons and Oscar Brown, Jr. was done at a medium tempo. It's a new chart, not on the CD. I enjoyed Barone's arrangement a lot. Again, Kreibich's strong drumming kicked the band with excitement. Lunetta was featured on a strong trumpet solo, with creative, swinging ideas. The tune kept building. Proulx made his presence known with a strong solo and Hamilton dug in hard on his bass. The band was tight and swinging and Hall got in a gutsy baritone sax solo.
"Metropole," written for the Metropole Orchestra, had an orchestral sound with woodwinds, clarinets and flutes against the flugelhorns. The tune had a cosmopolitan feel and Richmond provided a rich alto sax solo, while Huffsteter was lush and lyrical on his trumpet solo. The tune was so enticing and well-paced. Thornburg's lead trumpet was in fine form.
Barone does a nice job as an MC, explaining each piece and adds his unique sense of humor to the show.
"Road Kill" was a straight ahead chart, with Proulx adding another gem to the mix. Watts took off on a very agressive tenor solo. The tune had many mood changes, mixing contemporary with jazz and Thornburg was again, excellent on lead trumpet. Hamilton also got some solo space with his strong bass playing. Kreibich pushed the band to an explosive climax.
"Dark Town Strutter's Ball" was another straight ahead chart, with trumpets playing the theme and the other sections playing a counter line against them. Trombetta and DeSiena were terrific on this swinging tune.
"Love Locked Out," by Ray Noble, was beautifully played by Bishop on alto sax, with very pretty ensemble playing by the band. DeSiena played lead trumpet with great sensitivity. The tune, though a ballad, had a double time section in the middle that cooked! The crowd loved the chart.
The set closed with a very exciting arrangement of "When You're Smiling," and Watts tore it up on his mighty tenor sax.
Some other highlights included in the second set included John Coltrane's "Grand Central" that featured a torrid tenor battle between Watts and Trombetta. Barone played beautifully on a pretty J.J. Johnson tune, "Lament." "We'll Be Together Again" was another showcase for this fine band. The crowd showed their appreciation with thunderous applause.
I wish Barone a lot of success with his new CD.