Savant Records is excited to announce the August 25, 2023 release of Off The Charts, the thrilling new album from acclaimed drummer and bandleader Richard Baratta. On his third release for Savant, the “lively [and] adroit” (Euan Dixon, Jazz Views) musician shifts gears from the movie-music repertoire that fueled his previous two efforts, and instead turns his musical prowess to a collection of lesser-known compositions by inspirational jazz greats. To bring his musical vision to life, Baratta assembled an A-list cast of musicians including saxophone ace Jerry Bergonzi, acclaimed pianist David Kikoski, veteran bassist John Patitucci and dazzling percussionist Paul Rossman.

“I really wanted to focus on music that I loved while growing up,” the New York-area drummer explains.  “And I was thinking specifically about pieces I liked that weren’t the most popular numbers on some of these records—the tunes that weren’t as well publicized or listened to or re-recorded by other musicians, but were really outstanding in their own way.” When selecting the music for Off The Charts, Baratta mined the catalog of his youth, focusing on the 1960’s and 1970’s. A period full of intense musical creativity and experimentation, Baratta counts these years as some of the most important in his artistic development. “The music was exploding with emerging geniuses and an energy I’ve seldom seen since,” he recounts. To honor this prolific time, Baratta handpicked what he calls “hidden treasures”; somewhat overlooked gems by the likes of Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and more.

Hutcherson’s “Herzog” is the album opener. “I remember hearing and instantly loving this tune, and later wondering why nobody really played it or recorded it,” Baratta says of the tune, which debuted on Hutcherson’s 1969 Blue Note album Total Eclipse. Gears change on the bossa-tinged, Patitucci spotlight “Molten Glass” by Joe Ferrell before downshifting to the simple beauty of Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlonohon’s “Blackberry Winter”. Continuing on, Baratta gives Kikoski his due on “Peresina,” acknowledging a love of Latin music and the influence of McCoy Tyner’s Expansions (Blue Note, 1970), and goes full-on funky for Joe Henderson’s “Afro-Centric,” where the pianist plugs in and Patitucci nods to Ron Carter’s rare use of electric bass on Power to the People (Milestone, 1970). 

An air of mystery pervades Wayne Shorter’s “Lost” (from The Soothsayer, Blue Note, 1979), before moving into a brilliant rendition of Charles Lloyd’s “Sombrero Sam”. Chick Corea’s moderate swinger “Tones for Joan’s Bones” is the penultimate track, leading to Harold Arlen and Johnny Burke’s “Out of This World,” honoring the rendition from Coltrane (Impulse!, 1962) with buoyant Afro-Latin underpinnings and marked intensity.

With the exception of Charles Lloyd, all the composers represented on this recording have passed. However, the music lives on, as fresh as if it were written and recorded yesterday. “It’s a great privilege to honor these talented giants of yesteryear and let their music live on,” Baratta reflects.

Off The Charts represents an important artistic shift for Baratta, who has spent the last few years marrying his highly successful 35-year career as a movie producer with his musical ambitions. It’s been a recipe for success. His debut album Music In Film: The Reel Deal (2021) was a commercial triumph (evidenced by over 3.6 million streams on Spotify) and went on to gain a GRAMMY nomination for pianist Bill O’Connell’s smart arrangement of “Chopsticks”. Baratta’s sophomore album, Music in Film: The Sequel, confirmed this was not some fluke, as the streams and positive reviews continued to collect.

But for his third act, Baratta felt compelled to do something different. “The music and film dates were great, but there’s a lot more to this for me than just playing movie tunes,” he admits. “And in this instance, I really wanted to encompass many different kinds of music, from loose jazz to straight-ahead sounds to Latin grooves to funk-rock. Those were the elements that were in play in the ‘60s and ‘70s. So rather than work with one particular style, I wanted to be faithful to that time period and my experiences by exploring all of them. Having the opportunity to do all of that and share in the act of creation with these amazing musicians is a blessing. It’s a major gift that I don’t take for granted.” It’s a gift to the listeners too, who now get to experience a new side of Richard Baratta on this inspired and ebullient new offering.

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