Mike Barone has never met a reharmonized chord he didn’t like. Listen carefully to “When You’re Smiling” and you’ll be hip to his arranging trademarks: wide-open voicings and chordal clusters, constant tampering with meters, dynamic shadings, modulations at precisely the right psychological moment, getting bitonal for effect, leaving plenty of stretch-out room for soloists and, above all, his musical sense of humor.
Check those minor seconds on trumpets and saxes, simulating “ha-ha-ha,” and pianist John Proulx’s attempt to duplicate earlier orchestral pyramids with a melodramatic arpeggio. And that’s just the first track! The other nine tracks have Barone’s DNA on every measure.
More highlights: the smooth, subtly Latin trombone soli and Steve Hufsteter’s trumpet on “As Time Goes By”; “How Deep Is The Ocean” is preceded by two impressive choruses from Proulx, an astonishing solo by altoist Kim Richmond and trombonist Barone shows how much he’s learned from Miff Mole. Throughout, gap-filling by drummer Paul Kreibich is spectacular, tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts is a monster, Chris Connor is one of the best melodic bassists beneath massed sonorities and lead trumpeter Pete DeSiena soars above the fray.