When Bootsie Barnes was recording for the Philadelphia-based French Riviera in the 1990s, label founder George Arnold had definite ideas about how to market the veteran tenor saxman. Arnold felt that Barnes would be more marketable if he emphasized ballads and slow tempos, so his French Riviera dates generally avoided the type of fast, aggressive playing that was a big part of his live shows. Focusing on his romantic side, Barnes turns his attention to "Autumn in New York," Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," J.J. Johnson's "Lament" and other standards with consistently lyrical and evocative results. The title song was a major hit for Lionel Richie in 1983, but when Barnes gets a hold of it, "Hello" sounds like it could have been written for Gene Ammons or Dexter Gordon. This CD essentially functions as mood music, and the sexy, noir-ish ambience that Barnes goes for recalls a time when everyone from Ben Webster to John Coltrane recorded ballad-oriented collections. Hello doesn't tell the whole story where Barnes is concerned, but the side that it does tell is a highly appealing one.
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