Jazz  Allgemein
Tony Moreno Trio Ballads Vol. 1 SSC1720 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberSSC1720
labelSunnyside Records
Release date24/04/2024
  • Moreno, Tony: Drums
  • Versace, Gary: Piano

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      Description hide

      There is something timeless in the performance of a jazz ballad. By nature, they are very open to unique interpretation. Drummer Tony Moreno inherited an appreciation for ballads from his mother, a professional harpist, which eventually led to Moreno regularly performing them with his Trio. After twenty years of leading the group, Moreno has compiled some of his mother’s favorites to record with the trio on their debut album, Ballads Volume 1.

      Moreno grew up in New York City under the sway of his mother Nina Dunkel’s musical lead. Dunkel garnered rave reviews for her debut concert at Carnegie Hall at 19 years old and went on to study with Nadia and Lili Boulanger in Paris. Regardless of her pedigree, Dunkel found it difficult find a regular position in the orchestras of 1950s United States. She was relegated to playing restaurant and hotel gigs, adding a bit of elegance for tourists on their stays in New York City.

      Rather than be discouraged, Dunkel developed a love of the jazz canon and invented a unique way of pedaling her harp to allow herself to play jazz changes. She was especially fond of a regular gig performing at the VIP lounge at the Charles French Restaurant where she met many of legends of the music, including Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, and Alec Wilder.

      Dunkel passed her love of jazz to her son. Upon his request, she escorted Moreno to hear drumming legend Elvin Jones at the La Boheme Club. Meeting Jones set Moreno in motion on his life’s journey as a professional jazz drummer. Moreno also caught Dunkel’s appreciation for ballads, as their lyricism and transparency drew his ears.

      Flashing forward, Moreno found a home for his musical experiments with his trio of pianist Frank Kimbrough and bassist François Moutin at the 55 Bar in the West Village. Their group’s monthly residency allowed the trio to get progressively freer with their playing, stretching standard material farther and farther. Some of their favorite pieces to perform were standards that Moreno had first heard under the fingers of his mother on her harp.

      After Kimbrough passed away in 2020, Moreno enlisted his occasional substitute Gary Versace to fill the vacancy permanently. Though 55 Bar closed in 2020, primarily due to the negative effects of the Covid pandemic, and performance opportunities in New York have become more limited in general, the trio still reforms often and with incredible, spontaneous results.

      In the fall of 2022, Moreno, Versace, and Moutin decided to finally document their special group. For their recording, they pared their sixty pieces from Dunkel’s regularly performed repertoire to a more manageable number for an album. Versace lent his talents toward reharmonizing many of the pieces, which that and the group’s effortless reinterpretations made the pieces they recorded at Oktaven Studios a fascinating collection of reimagined standards.

      The recording begins with Matt Dennis and Tom Adair’s “Violets for Your Furs,” which introduces an inviting electricity to the seemingly sedate standard. Wilder and Engvick’s “Remember My Child” floats on Versace’s light, pointillistic touch and Moreno’s sparse percussion, while Wilder and Ross Berenberg’s “The Winter of My Discontent” is contemplative and resonant with Moutin’s woody bass sound. Moutin introduces Henry Mancini and Bob Merrill’s “Loss of Love,” Versace and Moreno subtly sneaking into the mix to accentuate the ennui. Favorite Wilder and Engvick turn on “A Season or Two Ago,” a warm-hearted rumination, while Hammerstein and Wilkinson’s “Because of You” is a light, bouncy ode.

      The program continues with Wilder and Engvick’s “Listen To Your Heart,” which flows into a dance between the trio members. Moutin highlights his bass dexterity leading into Loewe and Lerner’s “Show Me,” which builds momentum and color as Versace and Moreno join. Versace dampers the tone to introduce Wilder and Engvick’s “Lovers and Losers,” but building and building into a bright, bluesy standout. The bass stands out once again on Previn and Lerner’s “Let’s Go Home,” as the ensemble comes together for a light and airy rendition propelled by Moreno’s cymbal work. The recording concludes with Gibbons and Dyrenforth’s somber “A Garden In The Rain” which retains an incredible atmospheric feeling throughout.

      The beauty and lyricism of jazz ballads caught the ear and imagination of Tony Moreno as they were passed down to him from his mother. Along with Gary Versace and François Moutin, the drummer was finally able to express and perform these classic songs in homage to her on Ballads Volume 1.

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • 1.Violets for Your Furs04:10
      • 2.Remember My Child06:39
      • 3.Winter of My Discontent05:26
      • 4.Loss of Love09:35
      • 5.A Season or Two Ago05:14
      • 6.Because of You04:35
      • 7.Listen To Your Heart07:48
      • 8.Show Me07:02
      • 9.Lovers and Losers08:15
      • 10.Let's Go Home09:06
      • 11.Garden in the Rain06:45
      • Total:01:14:35