ARTHUR BARRON, DAVE LIEBMAN, ABEL PABON
THE MIAMI JAZZ PROJECT (ZoHo Music)
The Miami Jazz Project is on cue, on target, very fine! Grady Harp, Top 100 Hall of Fame Reviewervine Voice: Keeping The Spirit and Tradition of Jazz Alive
On this CD the Miami Jazz Project attempts to bring the sound of '70's electric Jazz fusion (think Miles Davis and Weather Report) into the 21st century, and succeeds admirably. The leaders are saxophonists Arthur Barron and Dave Liebman, and keyboardist Abel Pabon, the latter also a key factor as producer and co-arranger with Liebman. The compositions are primarily by Barron and Liebman, except for a striking arrangement of "Dahomey Dance" by John Coltrane, one of the two saxophonists' main influences, and these originals contain elements of straight ahead jazz, blues, jazz rock, Latin and world music. Barron actually studied with Liebman back the '70's (and was mentored by Pharoah Sanders), a period that found Liebman performing in the groups of Miles Davis and Elvin Jones. Pabon has toured with Joss Stone and been heard with Nestor Torres, and Barron has Latin connections as well, among others Hilton Ruiz and Jerry Gonzalez. Of the members of the Miami Jazz Project, only Northeasterner Liebman has not been based in South Florida, and besides Barron and Pabon they include bassists Josh Allen and Eric England, drummer Michael Piolet, and vibraphonist-percussionist Alfredo Chacon.
The opener is "Dahomey Dance," from the Olé Coltrane album, with the rhythmic and textural basis altered as Pabon's synth blends with the horns on part of the theme. Barron's tenor solo rages and churns in a style that while clearly his own owes a debt to Trane's modal ingenuity. Liebman follows on soprano, authoritatively surging with an inexorable, swirling momentum. Pabon's piano improv swings in a Latin / McCoy Tynerish fashion. "Lordy Lourdes" was inspired by Barron's friend Lourdes Gonzalez, and he and Pabon created a piece that incorporates Middle Eastern, blues, and R & B ingredients. Barron's flute enchants on the melody over a wah-wah effect, with Pabon's synth eventually joining him in snake-charming harmony. Allen's steadfast bass lines and Piolet's funky rhythms elevate Barron's spiky, penetrating statement, and Pabon's solo is lyrically elegant and satisfying. The arrangement itself is a work of art, and in listening one sometimes imagines flutist Jeremy Steig back in the day negotiating its appealing contours with great relish. Barron conceived "Jinnistan" when learning about the supernatural spirits called the Jinns during his study of Sufism. Again, Middle Eastern, jazz, and blues aspects are combined. Pabon's synth effects and Barron's forceful delivery of the mostly riffing theme set up his throaty, exclamatory alto solo. Liebman succeeds him with a densely packed exploration that peaks in roiling, dissonance-laden cries. Pabon's riveting synth outing cedes little ground to the saxophonists, and his soundscapes during their prior solos are both supportive and provocative. "Winter Day" is Liebman's ode to a typically stark day in his home ground of Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. Barron's flute, Liebman's soprano, and Pabon's keyboards make for a finely tuned combo on the lofty ballad theme. Liebman's solo mixes sliding and abrupt phrases with voice-like wonderment. Barron's take is relatively soothing and assuring, while Pabon's melodic piano musings occur over his own wafting simulated strings. "Mr. Q" is Barron's tribute to Coltrane and Elvin Jones. The powerful theme recalls "Blue Train," as the tenors of the composer and Liebman engage in call and response elaborations. Barron delves deeply into the tune's modal substance with an attractive thematic logic, while Liebman's improv is differentiated by a slightly more acerbic tone and a greater reliance on upper register shrieks and wails. The reprise focuses on perhaps the most distinctive and fulfilling part of Barron's expansive theme. Originally recorded by Liebman in the '70's, "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground" takes its name from a William Hanley play that debuted on Broadway in 1964. Pabon's portentous Tibetan chant-like synth intro ("Blessings Eternal") creates the proper mood for what transpires. A pounding drum and bass vamp frames Liebman's whirling Middle Eastern-colored soprano exposition, and the captivating percolation of Pabon's electronic orchestration precedes and extends into an even more intense Liebman spot that darts and plunges with unfettered vigor. Barron's sudden appearance on tenor near the end gives the piece a declamatory contrapuntal resolution. "Scheer Joy" (Scheer being the last name of the person who first commissioned the piece) is an endearing and sensual Liebman ballad, which is given a refined reading by him on soprano. Pabon's rhapsodic electric keyboard solo and Liebman's own eloquent assessment are the highlights. "Missing Person" is a three-minute plus duet between Liebman's airy soprano and Barron's more profoundly echoing tenor. Their intuitive counterpoint and individually spaced phrasings mold themselves into an absorbing and fully realized whole. "Tu Amor Neri" is Barron's salute to Afro-Cuban dancer and choreographer Neri Torres, which he describes as "essentially a Bolero played in 4/4 time with a jazz feel." The substantial thematic material includes an intro and five varied sections. Liebman's soprano, Barron's flute, and Pabon's piano unite in lustrous harmony as the listener travels the melodious pathways. Barron's solo flutters and sails with an expressive gravity, and Liebman's exclaims with heartfelt emotion. Their ecstatic embellishments during the lengthy reprise, above Pabon's lively accompaniment, are a memorable finale to this noteworthy project. Jazz Times
Saxophonist/Flutist Arthur Barron, soprano saxophonist Dave Leibman, and keyboardist Abel Papon waste no time in declaring their distinctive sound on this self-titled album. The opening tune, John Coltrane’s fairly obscure “Dahomey Dance,” fetures eerie harmonies and no shortage of melody-stretching solos. When the two horn plays are not charming snakes, Pabon takes off on a wild ride on the keys. By the next slinkly composition, “Lordy Lourdes,” Pabon’s electric piano is washing over the music. Jazz purists might find this album a little too electric and a little too catchy. But we’re safe distance from the 1970’s and musicians are realizing that fusion wasn’t all bad. The Miami Project pays homage to that era and it is sure fun. The Coltrane-like sound returns midway through the record in the form of Barron’s “Mr. Q.” a tune reminiscent of Coltrane’s “Naima.” The album gets positively weird in Pabon’s Tibetan chant-like “Blessings Eternal” which is used as to a prelude to Liebman’s “Slow Dance On The Killing Ground.” Barron, Liebman and Pabon sound like they’re having a ball playing these tunes. They are ably supported by Josh Allen and Eric England on bass; Michael Piolet, drums, and Alfredo Chacon, vibraphone and percussion. Rochester City Newspaper
Lead by the twin sax team of Dave Liebman and Arthur Barron as well as the keyboards of Abel Pabon, The Miami Jazz Project includes the hard hitting team of Josh Allen/b., Michael Piolet/dr. and Alfredo Chacon/perc. on this rousing collection of originals sans the opening piece. That one, John Coltrane's Dahomey Dance, sets the pace as Liebman's soprano and Chacon's vibes wrestle together like it's Saturday Night at the Sports Arena. Electronic keyboards are fetured on some funky pieces such as Lordy Lourdes with Barron's feathery flute, and the clarion calling Jinnistan which has some piercing soprano work. Fearce tenor work on Mr. Q have the two tenorists, Barron and Liebman, taking you back to the glory days of Impulse records, while the two part Slow Dance On The Killing Ground is a kaleidoscope sonic trip that has the saxists looking for a lunar landing. Few holds are barred here on a muscular adaventure. George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
Arthur Barron (flute, sax) and teams up with Dave Liebman (sax) and producer/musical director Abel Pabon (keyboards) to make The Miami Jazz Project. They are joined by a strong band to play nine originals plus Coltrane's "Dahomey Dance". We enjoyed "Lordy Lourdes", "Mr. Q", "Sheer Joy" and "Tu Amor Neri" in a set with lots of variations on the contemporary jazz theme. D. Oscar Groomes, O's Place Jazz Magazine OsPlaceJazz.com
Dave Liebman can convey the often hidden virility of music no matter what wind instrument he is playing. His ability to make this possible on the naturally higher-pitched soprano saxophone is legendary. Mr. Liebman is also a very spiritual player as well as a musician who is an advocate and relentlessly pursues the history of music in his playing. He has descended directly from John Coltrane. His music tells that story and it does so on The Miami Jazz Project even though there are moments when this feels like a tribute to Weather Report than anything else. Yet who knows, this is a route that Mr. Coltrane would have found a way to get to had he lived longer even if it meant eschewing the electronics of Weather Report. After all Wayne Shorter managed to remain connected to the natural sound of saxophones, despite the electronic proclivities of the group. This is a necessary digression as there is an underlying mystical dimension to the music on this recording and it comes from the playing of Dave Liebman although this is a very democratic ensemble in the same manner as Weather Report was at its peak. And it is a tremendous nod towards the essential history of that era of synthesis in music even though there is very little by way of electronics in the recording.
The Miami Jazz Project is also a wonderful way to hear all that is energetic and elastic about the idiom of jazz. Both Mr. Liebman and Arthur Barron ensure that this is so. The two winds players are a potent combination. The manner in which they converse in everything they do is evidence of great intellectuality and the two men are funnels of a slew of ideas. These cover the essence of the music, the history of their respective horns and the spirit of the grand masters that came and went. For instance the spirit of John Coltrane is almost palpable on his wonderful composition “Dahomey Dance.” Although not suggested very often because the chart is not played often, the earthy pulse captures the spirit of Arará rhythms that grew out of the musically-inclined society in Dahomey (now Benin). West African rhythms have now become popular in music thanks to the return of jazz to its roots and the hyper-awareness of musicians for that (one of the) roots of this great idiom of music. Both Mr. Liebman and Mr. Barron are acutely aware of this and have found a way to inform their compositions with this movement towards resurrecting this view as well. While none of this is, thankfully, made obvious, it is subtly suggested in “Mr. Q” as well as “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” and “Sheer Joy.”
The other members of the band are quick to pick up on this and this is because they are also schooled in the history of the music as many younger musicians appear to have become. And it is two of them—Abel Pabón and Alfredo Chacón—who also remind the listener that Jazz has many roots some of which come from the Latin realm. This is a lesson that is essential as it is often forgotten how rich and varied the origins of this great music is. So a record such as this becomes invaluable in that regard. Raul da Gama, Latin Jazz Network
For the record -- the soaring new Arthur Barron cd THE MIAMI JAZZ PROJECT is a true labor of love in the most fresh and joyous sense of that classic expression. It celebrates Arthur's more than forty years of friendship, collaboration, and commitment to artistic excellence with fellow saxophonist and composer, and NEA Jazzmaster, Dave Liebman. It compellingly joins forces with the major South Florida jazz virtuosos Abel Pabon, Josh Allen, Michael Piolet and Alfredo Chacon to create a uniquely creative music that touches our hearts and minds with a voice of its own, pulsing with many colors and textures. Todd Barkan, Keystone International
Always on the lookout for outstanding players to join him, NEA Jazz Master saxophonist, flautist, and composer David Liebman finds in the The Miami Jazz Project a simpatico group of musicians to echo and recapitulate his interest in the post- Coltrane concatenation of fusion and world music where his career first took off in the 1970s. Liebman is the obvious inspiration for this album, which is spearheaded by one of his long-time saxophone colleagues, Arthur Barron, and features a rhythm section of Abel Pabon on keyboards, Josh Allen on acoustic and electric basses (with Eric Englandsubstituting on bass in track 3), Michael Piolet on drums, and Alfredo Chacon on vibraphone and percussion. Liebman, like other master musicians today, is finding ways to collaborate with younger players both as mentor and conversely to assimilate their new ideas. This album works extremely well in bringing the generations together. The musicians are very much in synch with one another and obviously enjoy their interaction. And Liebman has plenty of room to show his wares, while the others make significant contributions as well.
All the musicians except Liebman are or have been based in and around Miami, which explains the name of the Project. Miami is an eclectic town with many ethnic groups, a strong Caribbean influence, and an unheralded jazz tradition akin to New Orleans. For example, the legendary drummer Mickey Roker became interested in jazz as a child by following street bands around the city. South Beach has been a hub of diverse musical developments. With Liebman's inspiration, this album coalesces that energy into a celebration of John Coltrane's legacy re-interpreted in terms of the jazz fusion genre initiated by Weather Report, Miles Davis,Chick Corea, and others soon after Trane's untimely passing. Liebman participated in both the post-Coltrane movement and fusion, and he gives this album a special impetus that makes the fusion of bop, rhythm and blues, and electronic sounds take on the spirit of Trane, with the heightened emotionality and reaching towards the spirit world that were hallmarks of Coltrane's music. Some parts of the recording echo A Love Supreme (Impulse, 1965) and others are reminiscent of the formidable John Coltrane Quartet. The music has the wildness of fusion and at the same time the improvisational expressiveness and control of Trane. In addition to Liebman, the player whose impact is most fully felt throughout is the remarkable keyboardist Abel Pabon, who pulls out all the synthesizer capability of modern keyboards to produce sonorities and sound streams that enrich and enhance the ensemble effect.
Most of the tunes consist of originals by Liebman and by Barron, but the opening track is a Coltrane standard, "Dahomey Dance," and there are ample references to Trane's album Ole Coltrane (Atlantic, 1961) on which the song first appeared. This is an energetic "trance dance" in which Liebman emulates Coltrane in his solo choruses while Barron's and Liebman's operation as a unit establishes a rhythm and blues feel. "Lordy Lourdes" was composed by Barron and Pabon, and the latter's keyboard intro with synthesizer effects shouts out "jazz fusion!" A touch of world music is added by the flute. The whole mix takes on a Middle Eastern pulse and modal sound. The flute plays against Pabon's funky rhythms, and we then hear a "violin" interlude, which we assume is a synthesized sound. The work builds in intensity and becomes a seductive middle-eastern dance. The piece concludes with a mysterious fade-out by the flute. The mid-east theme continues with Barron's "Jinnistan," which derives from Arabian folkloric spirits in ancient Persia with powers that could influence people to do good or evil. The angelic and demonic energy is generated by background and foreground riffing, and there is a nothing-short-of fabulous tenor saxophone solo by Liebman which someone ought to transcribe as a prime example of his iconic playing. "Winter Day," a Liebman original ballad, stands in sharp contrast to the previous tracks. A light samba rhythm leads up to a polyrhythmic combination of 2/4 walk and interspersed waltz time. Kudos to drummer Piolet who makes the polyrhythmic effect work successfully. When Barron’s flute comes in, its sweet improvising reminds us of Jobim, a feeling which is taken further by Pabon's piano solo. "Mr. Q," written by Barron as homage to Coltrane and Elvin Jones, emphasizes drums and percussion, and also features a call and response melody line anchored by a minor vamp. There is chant-like bridge which contains more than a hint of "A Love Supreme." This is sheer Coltrane and Elvin, and we can also hear echoes of Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner, but the keyboard work adds a citrus twist to McCoy. The combination of Allen's bass, along with drums and percussion, creates a sustained rhythmic impact. Liebman again contributes an outstanding tenor saxophone solo which sounds like he is channeling Trane. "Intro To Slow Dance on the Killing Ground: Blessings Eternal" utilizes a synthesized background against the flute to initiate the listener to the discourse of the next track, "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground," a piece originally recorded by Lieb in the 1970s in a little known album called Light'n Up Please (A and M Records, 1977). Both the intro and the main theme develop a sinister quality which perhaps represents a protest of the Viet Nam war and is certainly appropriate for the terrorism that haunts our world today. Thanks especially to Pabon's use of synthesizer effects, the piece could easily provide cinematic background music to film footage where danger and conflict are encountered. "Sheer Joy" is a newer Liebman ballad (which he indicates in the liner notes is a pun on the name of a German saxophonist and computer wiz named Scheer (who commissioned the piece). Pabon develops a keyboard sound somewhere between a piano, marimba, chimes, and guitar. (Or is it Chacon's vibraphone we're hearing? There is some prestidigitation going on.) Liebman's soprano saxophone improvisation contains a characteristic sense of the blues. Liebman's original, the very searching "Missing Person," is very French-flavored and in a sense a slow movement rather than a song. It is done as a soprano (Liebman) and tenor saxophone (Barron) duo meant to highlight two horns in a playful conversation, setting up an improvisatory atmosphere. According to Liebman in the liner notes, "The title refers to people we meet in life who may not be technically 'missing' but in social interaction don't seem to be on the same page as oneself or what is happening around them....physically present, but mentally not all there." The choice of metaphor, is, however, perhaps best left to the listener. Barron wrote "Tu Amor Neri" as a concluding piece in homage to Afro-Cuban dancer and choreographer Neri Torres. Says Baron, "It is essentially a Bolero played in 4/4 time with a jazz feel. The tune ended up being a fairly complex composition with an introduction followed by five sections, each expressing different moods and dynamics embellished by Lieb's signature harmonic concepts." The piece gently incorporates many of the features of the previous tracks in a kind of summary.
Track Listing: Dahomey Dance; Lordy Lourdes; Jinnistan; Winter Day; Mr. Q; Intro To Slow Dance on the Killing Ground: Blessings Eternal; Slow Dance on the Killing Ground; Sheer Joy; Missing Person; Tu Amor Neri. Personnel: Dave Liebman: soprano and tenor saxophones; Arthur Barron: tenor and alto saxophones, flute; Abel Pabón: keyboards; Josh Allen: acoustic and electric basses; Eric England: electric bass (track 3); Michael Piolet: drums; Alfredo Chacón: vibraphone and percussion. Victor L. Schermer, All About Jazz
South Florida-based saxophonist and flautist Arthur Barron describes The Miami Jazz Project as “an extension of the tradition that Miles and other bands like Weather Report laid down”. With that assertion in mind, the opening piece - John Coltrane’s blues Dahomey Dance - comes as something of a surprise, in that it is strongly rooted in Coltrane and McCoy Tyner's 1961 original, and makes its impact through powerful solos by Barron and his old friend and one-time teacher Dave Liebman (and enhanced by the vibraphone of Alfredo Chacon) A similar gravitas exists on Barron's fine composition Mr. Q, which has Elvin Jones-like accents to underpin its call-and-response melody. Several tracks do indeed go in the direction of Barron's statement. Lordy Lourdes has a backbeat, a mysterious flute-led Middle Eastern scale and synthethised violin sounds. The saxophone motif of Jinnistan has a similar melody, and its restless riff, unfettered solos and wail of electric keyboards recall the progressive rock-jazz of bands like Colosseum. Winter Day is a peaceful tune with acoustic piano and soprano sax, but it suffers from a synthesized backdrop and superfluous percussion. Together, these new pieces sound dated, and whether they constitute an "extension" of the exploratory worlds of, say, Dark Magus and Black Market is open to debate. The link between these styles is Liebman: he played with Miles in the early 1970s, produced his own take on jazz-funk a few years later, took an abiding interest in ethnic music, and became a leading authority and interpreter of Coltrane’s music. Slow Dance on the Killing Ground - built on a fast bass and drums riff - first appeared on Liebman’s album Light’n Up, Please! (recorded in the mid-‘70s for A&M, where Barron was a co-producer). Although it doesn’t do much for me, this furious track may be the one that extends “the tradition” more than any other.
The rhythm section plays a central role in creating diverse flavors, and keyboardist Abel Pabon is particularly chameleonic. Josh Allen on acoustic and electric basses, and Eric England (electric bass on one track) acquit themselves well, and drummer Michael Piolet impresses with the swing of Elvin, the power of Al Foster and the precision of Bill Bruford. Some tunes stand apart from the others. Missing Person is a duet for the saxophonists, during which it is hard to tell where the improvisation diverges from the written lines. Commissioned by (and named after) a German amateur saxophonist, Scheer Joy has lyrical electric piano, features Liebman’s soprano, and is the best of the ballads. If your hands - like mine – go clammy at the mere mention of Liebman's name, you will be disappointed to hear that most of this CD lacks the searing intensity of his finest work. However, the music may appeal to many listeners for its retro qualities and the variety that Barron offers, and purists will certainly enjoy the two Coltrane-related tracks.CD review: Andy Boeckstaens, London Jazz
The ECM imprint issued Dave Liebman's Lookout Farm, one of the discs in the 70s that helped form my more literate jazz tastes. There was a clerk, Bill Furman, at the Hermosa Beach Platterpuss record shop just off the ocean who knew from music and, as I was grabbing a side by my fave jazz band, Oregon, he handed Lookout to me, smiled, and said "Try this!" He'd never failed me before and certainly didn't there either. Of course, I dug the hell out of it and, returning to the shop the next week, noted that Paul Motian was on the same label, so I picked up Conception Vessel. Had there been any danger I might've leaned into Billboard banalities and Casey Kasem creamsauce, those two LPs and of course the jawdropping Oregon scotched that hideous problem right then and there.
Pabon engages an unearthly violinic sound from a synth patch, later becoming an arabesqued interlude, as Barron lofts a simul-synched flute duo, maybe a trio (Pabon's cagey with ivoryboard subtleties, so it's hard to tell, one of those flutes may well be his synthesizer), above him, the backing band grooving away. Comparisons to Paul Winter meeting Weather Report are inevitable, and, just as you're searching the liner notes to see if Karen Briggs might've dropped in from Vertu, Pabon gives himself away as the mystery 'strings rasper' in the legato passages (synths, as cosmic as they can be, cannot perfectly ape string legato, so that's what ya listen for).
Jinnistan takes the mid-East sound a step closer to the Magellanic Cluster as the saxes (Liebman, Barron) have their way, throwing restraints to the winds. Barron's a student of Sufism and fascinated by the concept of djinns, supernatural beings who can influence we monkey humans for good or for evil, depending on whether the supernals been imbibing ambrosia or rotgut that day. Most Westerners have been educated that djinns are strictly demonic, but that, I suppose, is more based on the genies' Western cousins—politicians and lobbyists—not the far more sophisticated mythologies within Eastern religions. Pabon, too, goes crazy for a bit, himself whirlng like a dervish, so thank the dakinis and ganeshes that the rhythm unit has everything else nailed to the floor. This is fusion, in case I hadn't made that clear, very strongly straight-ahead jazz based and thus not a Mahavishnu Orchestra or Group 87, yet well outside the more staid, if I can be allowed to contextually savage that term, classical jazz constraints. Mark S. Tucker, AcousticMusic.com
Getting ever more comfortable wearing the mantle of elder statesman of progressive jazz, Dave Liebman and his new pals serve up the next step in the progression from Miles to Weather Report with this sax heavy set that finds Dave tearing it up with his sax cohort, Arthur Barron, who soaks it all up like a sponge, but you can tell he's no sponge. A rollicking good time that flows with the kind of energy that powered Miles jams with John McLaughlin on "Jack Johnson", this will really kick you into gear. Killer stuff that shows Lieb is roaring way to loud to be considered a lion in winter. Hot stuff. Chris Spector, Editor and Publisher MidwestRecord.com
AFRO BLUE BAND IMPRESSIONS (Milestone Records)
Finally, we have the Afro-Blue Band, an extended musical family convened by saxophonist/producer Arthur Barron to explore some of the modern and less charted territory of Afro-Cuban Jazz. Featuring a stellar line-up of saxophonists Mario Rivera, David Liebman and Barron, pianist Hilton Ruiz, Fort Apache's Jerry Gonzalez and Steve Berrios, and a host of other accomplished veteran musicians, the group takes its primary inspiration from "the guiding musical lights" of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Mongo Santamaria and John Coltrane. Not surprisingly the music on the album, Impressions, soars inside and outside traditions asserting the spiritual/political struggles of multicultural humanity. Startling and intense music. Z Magazine
Under the leadership of tenor saxophonist Arthur Barron, Jazz with a Latin tinge has always been electrically-charged, sensual and filled with a special potency. Dizzy Gillespie used congas to create an off-shoot of bebop; pianists Hilton Ruiz, Danilo Perez and Gonzalo Rubalcaba gave a new vibrancy to jazz keyboard artistry in the 90's, and the Afro Blue Band gives that same electricity to works of modern jazz, particularly those of John Coltrane. Jules Epstein Philadelphia Tribune
The Afro Blue Band is a unique collective of like-minded players, most of whom are heavily steeped in the Afro-Cuban jazz tradition. They are brought together by tenor man Arthur Barron and producer Todd Barkan. Common ground is all of their associations with the late Keystone Korner. Major players include percussionists Steve Berrios and Jerry Gonzalez, saxophonists Barron, Mario Rivera, Mel Martin and Dave Liebman, bassist Steve Neil and pianists Hilton Ruiz and Mark Levine. While this is certainly a mixed bag of players there is a sense of inter-connectedness that makes it all work out in the end. There's fire aplenty, but one of the most effective pieces is a bit of Coltrane's hypnosis called "Lonnie's Lament," which begins with Nicole Yarling's incantatory vocal and Mel Martin's alto sax in the lead, and opens into a swing figure for Martin's solo. Besides the Afro-Cuban feel, a secondary theme is Coltrane, considering the fact that Trane's treatment of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" not only names the band but is one of the other song highlights of the date. "Tonesville" is a notable exception to the Cubana bop flavor as Barron, Ruiz and Liebman get an opportunity to stretch out and engage in a free exchange section. "Latin Jazz Dance" is the kind of spontaneous vamp composition that derives from warm feelings between players in the studio, and that one of the hallmarks of this date, the obvious warmth achieved between the players. "For Pearl" is a sweet dedication from Ruiz for what must be a beautiful spirit (though Levine does the paino honors) with Martin's lovely flute harmonizing with his overdubbed bass clarinet for a nice touch. Jazz Times
The Afro Blue Band is a visionary Latin project organized by Arthur Barron. Barron managed to congregate musical representatives from three different urban sites - New York, Miami and the San Francisco Bay area. Such geographic convergence usually results in a musically rewarding experience, as exemplified by the CD Impressions. Although most of the players hail from the Big Apple (Steve Berrios, Jerry Gonzalez, Hilton Ruiz, Mario Rivera, Papo Vasquez, etc.), Barron and two others - trumpeter Melton Mustafa and vocalist/violinist Nicole Yarling - reside in South Florida, while the remaining three musical delegates (saxophonist Mel Martin, pianist Mark Levine, and percussionist Glen Cronkite) have belonged to the Bay Area's jazz community for over a quarter of a century. The material is equally divided - five originals (penned by Barron or Ruiz or by their combined efforts) and five standards, including the band's eponymous Cuban-Jazz standards. Impressions contains a variety of memorable moments, as created by the full-bodied technique of trombonist Papo Vasquez, or by pianist Hilton Ruiz' proficient pulse. Not to mention Jerry Gonzalez' percussive articulation or Steve Berrios' stylist versatility. Further, it is always a pleasure to check out Mario Rivera's multi-instrumental input in different settings, besides his usual recording gigs with Tito Puente. Coincidentally, it appears that Mario Rivera's musical prolific genes have been transmitted to his offspring, and even documented by drummer Phoenix Rivera's energetic involvement in the Afro Blue Band. Latin Beat
ARTHUR BARRON LATE NITE TIME (Dragon Rose Records)
ARTHUR BARRON AND HILTON RUIZ FROM THE ARCHIVES (Dragon Rose Records)
From The Archives explores the stellar talents of two of jazz’s most exciting artists, Arthur Barron (tenor saxophone & flute) and Hilton Ruiz (piano), and features among others jazz giants Dave Liebman (soprano saxophone) and Jerry Gonzalez (flugelhorn & percussion). From the opening soulful interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” to Ruiz’ gorgeous Gershwin inspired ballad “For Pearl” to the superbly passionate Latin Jazz ensemble piece “El Montuno De Hilton Te Toca Barron,” the intensity and excitement never falters. Barron’s tenor and flute playing swings with authority and Ruiz’ piano virtuosity possesses a unique sense of harmonic sophistication, mutually committed to creating and performing great music. From The Archives could easily become a future classic jazz recording. Dragon Rose Records press release
ARTHUR BARRON HILTON RUIZ FOOTPRINTS (Dragon Rose Records)
Miami-based tenor-saxophonist Arthur Barron performs four long numbers with the great pianist Hilton Ruiz live at a local bar/jazz club. Also in the combo are flugelhornist Pete Minger (a talented but very underrated player) either Pepe Aparicio or David Wertman on bass, Oscar Salas or John Yarling on drums and Osiku Danell on congas. Barron (who contributed Mr. Q's Day Of Judgment and It's Strange) and Ruiz are the main stars during these long performances (Footprints and All Blues are the other two pieces) which range from 14:30 to 20:29 in length. Although Ruiz has recorded fairly frequently, this is one of the best recorded outings by Arthur Barron, who holds his own and plays excellent hard bop/post bop solos. Scott Yanow All Music Guide
Miami tenor player Arthur Barron leads this admirably swinging live date, where he's joined by Latin jazz piano ace Milton Ruiz. The principal players really get a chance to stretch out, as all four of the album's cuts are over 15 minutes long. Standouts include the crackling Latin jazz theme "Mr. Q's Day of Judgment," which recalls Gato Barbieri, as well as a powerful version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and an enjoyable take on Miles Davis' "All Blues." Billboard
Faster than the speed of thought, Hilton Ruiz' percussive piano improvisation provides a blueprint of the creative process. Still, one wonders: Do his fingers fly that fast to catch up with his mind, or is it the other way around? Ruiz dominates nearly every session he contributes to, and this live set is no exception. Accompanied by long-time friend and tenor saxophonist Arthur Barron and a rotating roster of bassmen and drummers (David Wertman and Pepe Aparicio on the bottom and John Yarling and Oscar Salas wielding the sticks), the pianoman's attack is solidly anchored, particularly by Osieku Danell's steady conga bopping. Barron is obviously inspired in this setting, dancing along the avant edge much like New York pal Dave Liebman, and occasionally recalling the throaty rumblings of mentor Pharoah Sanders. Barron's compositions, "Mr. Q's Day of Judgment" and "It's Strange," feature some tasty riffs a la Blue Note, ca. 1961, allowing the soloists to weave in and out of the song structure. And speaking of tasty riffs, Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and Miles Davis' "All Blues" are also here, the latter making use of Pete Minger's cool blue flugelhorn. A relaxed session, Barron gives his sidemen plenty of room to stretch out; the shortest track clocks in at fourteen and a half minutes. Miami New Times
ARTHUR BARRON SOUL MESSENGER (Dragon Rose Records)
Saxophonist, flutist and producer Arthur Barron has spawned a project that is nothing less than a quiet storm. Tunes like Footprints (Wayne Shorter) and All Blues (Miles Davis) are the perks that go along with a masterful collection of tunes written by Arthur Barron. He's joined by Delmar Brown on keyboards and vocals and a superb selection of sidemen. Strictly Jazz
For someone influenced by such jazz and fusion non-traditionalists as Pharoah Sanders and James "Blood" Ulmer, Miami saxophonist Arthur Barron sure plays it smooth on his CD, "Soul Messenger." More David Sanborn than Charlie Parker, Barron's style is fluid and lyrical. Of his original compositions (he covers four tunes here), the funk-based "Night Shades" (featuring guitar synthesizer by Randy Bernsen) and the appropriately titled "Song For Dreaming" (showcasing Barron's flute talents) work best. The musicians are first rate, including Bernsen (who has played with Herbie Hancock and Joe Zawinul), keyboardist Delmar Brown (Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Sting), and bassist Pete Sebastian (Orthello Molineaux, Al Green). If you like "contemporary jazz," "Soul Messenger" will smooth you over.