by Tom Johnson
Drummer Joey Baron’s Barondown, featuring Steve Swell on trombone and Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax comes across like the mischievous little brother to John Zorn’s Masada. More than that, the only way to adequately describe the sound of Barondown is to compare it to big brother Masada, but only if Masada got really drunk one night before a show, and since bassist Greg Cohen missed his bus for the gig, the band just got up on stage and did what came naturally.
The sound of Barondown is a big, swaggering mess of licks, twists, and turns, and there’s no doubt there were huge grins on the faces of the band as they threw Tongue In Groove together — as the liner notes say — “all acoustic, all live, no mix, no edit.”
What makes it most fun is that the band seems to be hell-bent for making the biggest, rudest noises they can. Eskelin’s sax farts and spits, Swell’s trombone slips and slides, and Baron hammers out his usual trademark intense, tuneful, and humorous drumming. Even without a bassist, the three find a groove and they’ll ride it just long enough to come right up to the edge of overdoing it — and then they’ll swerve right into something else. And more often than not, they’ll find something as incongruous as possible, something that seems too odd and unmanageable, and take it on with such abandon that it’s almost impossible to stifle the giddy laughter you’ll feel when you realize they pulled it off.
How often do you hear that in music these days?
Before you freak out, let me just clear up one thing. You looked at the tracklist, didn’t you? And you saw “The Shadow of Your Smile.” I know what you’re thinking, “No way, a jazz cover of a Night Ranger tune?!” Nope, sorry, totally wrong my friend – it’s not Night Ranger, and anyway that song you’re thinking of “The Color of Your Smile.” Close, though. However disappointing it may be that it’s not Night Ranger, I think you’ll somehow find a way to enjoy this rambling, sweaty, swaggering take on the Sinatra/Tony Bennett/about-a-friggin-million-others classic anyway.