It isn't uncommon for jazz improvisers to inundate listeners with well-known standards on their debut albums. They reason is that if people are unfamiliar with their work, seeing some overdone warhorses in the list of tracks will inspire some of them to check the album out. But Mike Moreno sticks to original material on Between the Lines, the guitarist's first album as a leader -- and he's better off as a result. This self-produced post-bop disc is a solid debut from Moreno, who favors an airy and lyrical style of guitar playing that often underscores his appreciation of Pat Metheny and Jim Hall, among others. Like Metheny and Hall, Moreno chooses his notes judiciously and wisely when he solos; he isn't a flashy or ostentatious type of player by any means. But Moreno (who is heard on both electric and acoustic guitar) definitely has chops, although he doesn't beat listeners over the head with them or go out of his way to show off his technique on this 2006 recording -- and he is smart enough to compose and perform songs that illustrate his melodic nature. Reflective, contemplative Moreno originals such as "Gondola," "Road Song," "Uncertainty," and "World of the Marionettes" give the impression that Moreno would rather use his chops to tell stories instead of using them to show off his technical skills. Thankfully, Moreno has sympathetic sidemen in John Ellis (tenor and soprano sax), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax), Aaron Parks (piano), Doug Weiss (acoustic bass), and Kendrick Scott (drums). Between the Lines isn't groundbreaking, but it's an enjoyable demonstration of what Moreno has to offer as both a composer and a soloist.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson