Bill Barron: One Hand, One Heart


One Hand, One Heart


Bill Barron (tenor sax)


West Side Story Bossa Nova (Dauntless DC 6004)

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Bill Barron (tenor sax),

Willie Thomas (trumpet), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Steve Kuhn (piano), Henry Grimes (bass), Charlie Persip (drums), Jose Soares (percussion)


Composed by Leonard Bernstein


Recorded: New York, 1963


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

Crazes, like politics, can make for strange bedfellows. Put the early '60s craving for jazz versions of musicals together with the strange phenomenon of all things bossa nova, and you just might wind up with something neither fresh nor foul, like this series of 3-minute miss-takes. West Side Story Bossa Nova? Pshaw! There's nothing "boss" or new about smothering 10 show tunes in scratchy samba sounds, even if played by Kenny Burrell, Steve Kuhn, Henry Grimes and Charlie Persip, plus a Brazilian percussionist. The reductive results still sound like a skip-the-rehearsal, jam-it-fast release on some sub-Prestige label, but lacking the fiery players needed to make that approach work. Tenorman Barron blows hard in his solos, but everyone else sounds both frantic and bored. (They got an awful lot o' caffeine in Brazil.)

Maybe I exaggerate. The players are pros of course, and Bernstein's tunes are mostly indestructible. But trying to slather quasi-Brazilian rhythms over and under them … well, bring back Bonfa and gimme Getz! Take the Barron version of "One Hand, One Heart" (please!); slightly radical to hear that plaintive ballad turned into a loud dance number – points for Chutzpah? grounds for Capoeira? – which initially respects Bernstein's rising/falling counterpoint (as a trumpet/sax duo), albeit over an unsubtle, scratch-that-itch beat. The Barron arrangement next offers a busy tenor solo, then a more inventive one keyed by pianist Kuhn. More counterpoint attends the finale and then … relief. From this album de uma nota só, one melody has emerged unscathed.

Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher

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