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Mike Barone: Hollywood, 1968-'69

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Based on the flood of emails I received this week, readers seem to get a kick out of my big band posts—particularly when I write about superb recordings that they may have missed. Today I'm going to tell you about two albums led by Mike Barone recorded in late 1968 and early 1969 that are out of this world.

First, a bit of bio from Barone's site:

“In 1959, I attended Valley College in Van Nuys, California and left school to tour with the Sy Zentner and Louis Bellson Orchestras. I spent many years working with Louie and Pearl Bailey, touring, recording and arranging for the band. In 1962, I recorded Lalo Shifrin's New Continent, which was performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Dizzy Gillespie's Quintet. The next few years were spent performing and recording with Dick Grove, Pete Jolly, Gabor Szabo, Oliver Nelson, Terry Gibbs and many others.

“During this time, I also wrote and played with Gerald Wilson, and 27 of my arrangements were recorded by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra and other artists. One of these is the now classic Johnny Hartman album Unforgettable of which I wrote 7 of the 11 arrangements. I played on the Peggy Lee hit Is That All There Is. Frank Rosolino and I formed a jazz quintet that played at the famous Donte's jazz club in North Hollywood, Calif., and other jazz clubs in Orange County, Calif." [Photo above of Mike Barone by Fred Seligo]

This section of his bio brings us up to the albums in question today. If you want to know more about Barone (and you should), go here.

In November 1968, Barone put together a band that performed at Donte's in North Hollywood. The band was comprised mostly of TV and movie studio players and incucluded Larry McGuire, Buddy Childers, Gary Barone, Steve Huffsteter (tp) Charlie Loper, Pete Myers, Vince Diaz, Ernie Tack (tb) Med Flory, Bill Perkins (as) Lou Ciotti (ts) Bill Hood (ts,arr) Jack Nimitz (bar) Cliff Bryant (p) Jim Hughart (b) John Guerin (d) and Mike Barone (arr). [Pictured above: The Mike Barone Band at Donte's]

This powerhouse band swings through Barone charts that were tailored to blow audiences away. Anyone who thinks that big band territory in the late '60s belonged solely to Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Buddy Rich will be stunned by what they hear on this album. What's more, this band of perfection was performing live! 

The other Barone-led album you need to know about from this period is Class of '68. Recorded in a studio around the same time—from November '68 through January '69—the band retained the same personnel with a few chair changes. The collective personnel over the session featured Larry McGuire, Buddy Childers, Gary Barone, Steve Huffsteter (tp) Mike Barone, Charlie Lopez, Vince Diaz, Ernie Tack, Jim Trimble, Pete Meyers (tb) Med Flory, Bill Perkins, Lou Ciotti, Bill Hood, Jack Nimitz, Tom Scott (reeds) Mike Wofford, Cliff Bryant (p) Jim Hughart, Monty Budwig (b) John Guerin (d) and Mike Barone (arr).

Once again, you'll be amazed by the punch and thrust of the arrangements and playing. Band sections echo each other and move in and out shrewdly to set up soloists, and the instrumentalists are at the top of their game. You can hear the ambition and excitement on every track.

JazzWax tracks: Both albums are available as CDs or downloads. You'll find Live at Donte's (VSOP) here and Class of '68 (CD Baby) here. And by the way, Mike Barone has a new one out—Birdland (CD Baby)—here.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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