Barry Danielian - Common Ground


Barry is an incredible trumpet player. He already recorded with Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Lenny Kravitz, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Tower of Power, Spyro Gyra, Eddie Palmieri, Jeff Kashiwa, Tito Puente, Emmanuel, Nestor Torres, Nelson Rangell, Freddy Cole, Chieli Minucci, Special EFX, C&C Music Factory, Alex Bugnon, Neville Brothers, Mikki Howard and so on. A rather incomplete list of his musical activities is to find at his website. Absolutely impressing. In March he was recording with Mariah Carey. Produced by Randy Jackson. In the past he was also playing with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Queen Latifah and Jon Bon Jovi. So Barry is one of New York City’s most in-demand session players and arrangers.

As we know no session player is satisfied in always just supporting the stars. Paul Jackson, Michael O'Neal and more are exited about their solo projects. "It was about finding a way to combine all my influences into a cohesive sound," says Barry. " For me, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan were as much of an influence as Miles, Coltrane and Herbie Hancock. I've never subscribed to the idea that you have to be in one camp or the other. In fact, having been trained in Jazz, I feel that gives one more tools to understand and conceptualize other forms of music."

"Common Ground" is Barry's answer. The album was released in 2003 and it's up time to discover it. The red trumpet on the cover is a promise: This album is a hot burner. Barry showcases his album as a mixture of jazz, urban and some world music elements. 

Street Smarts has a funky rhythm impact. Barry's muted trumpet is jazzy and he powers it up with a brass section. Randy Andos plays tenor and bass trombone parting Barry's trumpet overdubbs. The melody is complex and fascinating. This is contemporary jazz and jazz of the future. Captivating!

Hip hop beat and rhythm enhanced brass introduce to Barry's lead melody of Common Ground. Barry has a fine hand for arrangements and compositions. Solo trumpet attacks are pushing the melody to a strong final. If I try to compare his work with other artists I would name Herb Alpert (Second Wind), Tom Brown (Jamaica Funk), Rick Braun (Night Walk), Mc Kenzie (Mac's Smoking Section), Michael Patches Stewart (Penetration), Ken Ross (Caught In The Current), Greg Adams (Hidden Agenda), Ron Haynes (Can You Hear Me?) or Larry Gittens & Media (Dual Identity). But he is on the top of the scale.

With When I'm Away Barry slows down the tempo. His trumpet gets an intimate mood. His longtime friend and sax player David Mann shares his melody. Barry is such a professional player that he exactly knows how to set all tones in a perfect arrangement. 

Khadijah's Dance makes is clear. Here we are a listening to one of the greatest trumpet player and arranger of all time. It's wonderful how he effortlessly fuses several music influences like funk, urban, jazz and a prize of Latin.

Count You Blessings is Barry's next demand. Zane Mark on Wurlitzer & organ finds my attention. Highlight of course the fantastic brass arrangement again.

His next piece First Treasure is dedicated to his child Amani. The song has a slow purposeful approach to our heart. Paul Livant adds some sentimental licks on acoustic and electric guitar. 

With Preconceived Notions Barry holds on the tension. Muted trumpet on hip hop beat as jazzy solo combined with a smooth jazzed melody which is always fading in some jazz areas (Bebop?). You never knows where the journey is going. That makes this album entertaining.

My Brothers Keeper lend only the title from Neville Brother's same-named album. Barry composed and arranged the complete album. The song features vocalist Brent Carter. His silky voice became a trademark of the group "Power of Tower" which lead singer he is since 1995. This smooth groove is another great platform for Barry's trumpet.

Tasawwuf showcases the multi-instrumentalist Barry Danielian. He plays trumpet, flugelhorn, drums, percussion, keyboards and synth bass. He mixes scratching turntables with funky beats, tons and samples. Then he starts his muted trumpet to conduct the piece to a new level. Backed with keyboard carpets he ignites the second stage of his jazz rocket.

Fluently we arrive to Keep On Keepin' On. Just sit back and listen to this piece which could be a smooth version of Tower of Power. David Mann (tenor sax) and Ozzie Melendez (trombone) are serving a tight brass, Barry is soloing like a god. Incredible that such a piece is composed and arranged. Its sounds like a live jamming with much improvisation. Great!

Barry plans as a next record a jazz album. Righteous Indignation could be an example for it. A short appetizer.

The last tune Facing East (for the Ummah) has the subtitle (Prayer For Today/Hope For Tomorrow). An Ummah is a community or a people. It is used in reference to the community of Believers or Muslims. Barry is a confessing Muslim as one can read in the liner notes and the dedication of his album. On this tune Barry melts ingeniously samples of oriental music and percussion with contemporary jazz and free jazz.

It was a great pleasure to listen and review this album. I absolutely believe that Barry has carefully composed and arranged his music. You find no sleeper on it. For all friends of contemporary jazz my conclusion and message: This album is a must!