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Mike Barone: The Mike Barone Big Band Live at Donte’s, 1968

In the dog days of the late 1960s, rock drove down demand for jazz to the point where many Los Angeles players ended up in Hollywood studios or on the beach. They had to grab blowing opportunities where they could find them. Enough audience remained to allow the North Hollywood club called Donte’s to survive the drought and provide a haven for creative work. Among the part-time bands that operated at Donte’s was one led by the young trombonist and arranger Mike Barone. Barone’s writing radiated the freshness, surprise and sideways humor that also brightened his soloing. In the performances on this CD, the band responded in kind. The enjoyment of the musicians and the audience is palpable. The sidemen included luminaries like Buddy Childers, Bill Perkins, Med Flory, Jack Nimitz, Steve Huffsteter, John Guerin, and Mike Wofford.

Barone’s combination of technical mastery and distinctive personal writing qualities, so obvious here, was to make him one of the busiest arrangers in television and movies and force the trombone to the side. In 1968 he was still blowing with the skill and subtle humor exemplified in his long outing on tenor saxophonist Bill Hood’s arrangement of “My Melancholy Baby.” Hood, Wofford and Huffsteter also have impressive solos on the piece. Elsewhere, Flory, guest tenorist Tom Scott, the little known saxophonist Louis Ciotti and trumpeter Gary Barone shine in solo. Whether he is renovating unlikely songs (“Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey”) or in his originals like “Deedle-Dydle,” “Flupp” and “The Non-Viennese Waltz Blues,” 31 years later Barone’s work sounds new. It is a mystery why this excellent music was kept in captivity all this time, good to have it out at last.

Originally Published