Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scotty Barnhart: Say It Plain

Unity Music
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 12.10.09
Buy CD: Say It Plain

Scotty Barnhart played trumpet with the Count Basie orchestra for 17 years; this is his debut recording as a leader.

He may be an “unknown” to casual jazz fans, but the fact that he was able to gather an august group of musicians for this album speaks well for their assessment of him. The line-up includes Wynton Marsalis and his pianist father, Ellis, Clark Terry and a number of musicians who've been a part of bands that Wynton Marsalis has formed over the years.

This album contains a dozen tunes, half written by Barnhart; the rest are covers of well-known jazz standards. The styles vary: straight-ahead, swing, blues, ballads, Latin and even a nod to New Orleans.

Those familiar with Wynton Marsalis are aware that he loves to re-explore older jazz styles as much as he enjoys pushing the envelope into new areas; Barnhart is an obvious disciple. I'm sure John Coltrane never envisioned his classic “Giant Steps” in New Orleans garb, nor did Frank Loesser expect to hear “I've Never Been in Love Before” as a burner.

It's also a real treat to hear Clark Terry play and scat his way through “Pay Me My Money.”

As for Barnhart himself, he's one helluva trumpet player. His treatment of “I'm Glad There Is You” is gorgeous, and his cover of “Put On a Happy Face” is as innovative and swinging as anything I've ever heard.

His tone is crystal-clear at any tempo. The man is flat-out great!

All in all, this is a neat, swinging album. I'm waiting to hear more.

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