DAVE BARGERON QUARTET with LARRY WILLIS:
Barge Burns...Slide Flies
When Larry Willis was hot to do a reunion with his old trombonist pal from Blood, Sweat & Tears days, I didn't hesitate. If you've heard Barge's burning solos on BS&T hits, you understand. For this CD, Larry and Barge laid down an intimate, set of pure, uncommercial jazzand Mapleshade set a new standard for 'bone sonics. Stereophile describes it as "impassioned trombone anchored by an introspective piano sonically vibrant and realistic, with startling directness." Down Beat says Barge has "formidable chops with a delightful, punchy assertiveness." They loved the originals: " expressive, sonata-like compositions sweet and lovely 4-Stars" (#02832)
In the mid-70s, when trombonist Dave Bargeron and pianist Larry Willis were mainstays of the soul group Blood, Sweat & Tears, they expressed skills that seemed to reach beyond the genre. Those inclinations are fully realized on this reunion jazz date, and right away Bargeron presents his formidable chops on the opening tune, attacking Gussie Blues with a delightful, punchy assertiveness.
Then, with the gusto subdued, Bargeron is sweet and lively on Hollys Song, investing the tender ballad with the full range of tonal colors. Willis coaxes the rhythm section gently in and around the trombones gilded notes, providing additional mood and nuance. B.R.A.V.O. and Evanrude, two more Bargeron originals, spin by without notice, but Willis Children Of Harlem is an expressive, sonata-like composition with enough juice for the entire quartet, and each has his moment before they resume cobbling a most dramatic performance. Bassist Steve Novosel and drummer Kenwood Dennard, with feathery brush strokes, establish a bright, optimistic scene that becomes even more playful when Bargeron and Willis add their images of young girls double-dutch jumproping and boys chasing each other in a game of tag. But when Dennards drums suddenly rumble, the conflict enters and Bargerons quick stabbing sound signals chaos, agitation; Willis tightens the chords and we have all the tension of an urban setting about to explode. However, things simmer down and there is a return to the calm of the opening motif.
This is worth the price of admission. Although Bargerons kazooish final note on There Is No Greater Love commands at least a small gratuity.
Big-toned Dave Barge Bargeron has recorded with artists from Miles Davis to Mick Jagger. As a hired-gun trombonist hes a busy man in New York as well as one of the handful of bottom-Buddhas who can swing a tuba. Barges range and speed can be startling, but theres no showboating; its his soulful sound and lucid ideas that make the music. And his ballad playing is downright gorgeous. A long overdue disc, this first solo effort also illuminates his fine composing skills.
Since their days together with Gil Evans and Jaco, Barge and Kenwood Dennard have enjoyed an ongoing musical brotherhood. By choice, the recording process for this session was defiantly low-tech, allowing a raw, spontaneous club gig sound and feel. This is a great setting to hear Kenwood rip with a straight-ahead quartet. Listen to how he digs in on the uptemps bopper B.R.A.V.O. with a fierce last-day-on-earth drive, elegantly ushers Hollys Song through an extra-slow tempo, and injects hip Latin grooves into Mexicali Pose. Although listeners can check out Kenwood on an increasing number of high-profile discs, this session truly captures the sweat flying off his sticks.
Dave Bargeron and Bob Brookmeyer represent different generations of creative musicians who have also found homes as studio players. Brookmeyer, of course, has had a higher profile as an improviser dating to his days with Gerry Mulligan. Bargeron, if hes known at all, is from his longtime gig with the Jazz pop group, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, where he first played with co-star and co-producer Larry Willis. Brookmeyers and Bargerons approaches also reflect the different times in which they came up: Brookmeyer essays with a cool, muffled, yet full sound; Bargeron has a raucous edge to his fat tone that befits Jazz-rock.
Indeed, Bargerons gruff, even rough style sets him off from most of his tromboning contemporaries as well. He revels in the horns potential for boisterousness, recalling even Ros Rudd at times. On the ballads, his own Hollys Song and Willis Children of Harlem, he displays a thick, almost overripe sound, colored by a heavy vibrato. But for all his high-spirited playing, he always displays technical control. He has chops galore. Listen to the way he pops a clear, in tune, triple high C at the end of There Is No Greater Love. He never tries to tame his horn the way so many trombone players seem intent on doing, yet he executes long, multi-note lines. For these he uses his own invention (echoes of tinkerer Jack Teagarden) the B.R.A.V.O. (Bargeron Rapid Articulating Valve Option). Essentially the device is a modified mouthpiece with a simple valve to briefly cut off the air flow. Frankly, Im not sure if I would have known anything other than his tongue was in play if I had not read the liner notes. Knowing hes using it, I can detect a somewhat more clipped sound on some runs. Still, as with his prodigious technique, the device is always used musically.
That musical effect is greatly enhanced by his cohorts. They support Bargeron without trying to match his boisterousness, allowing the leader to be the life of the party. And clearly a good time was had by all, including those who only participate by listening to this session.
Dave Bargeron, formerly trombonist for Blood, Sweat & Tears, turns in an intense set of originals leavened with two contributions from pianist Willis and the standard Theres No Greater Love. My favorite moment is Hollys Song, an 8 1/2 -minute love letter to his wife Ü the impassioned trombone anchored by an introspective piano must surely reflect the relationship itself. Sonically, its what weve come to expect from Sprey Ü vibrant and realistic, with startling directness. Since this is a trombone recording, it must lapse into rude noises occasionally in order to sound authentic. It does; youll want to turn to Bargeron periodically and demand, Excuse yourself!