Tony Moreno Trio - Ballads Volume 1

2024 CD release

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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.


SKU 016728172028
Barcode # 016728172028
Brand Sunnyside Records

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