First In Mind – Mike Moreno

First In Mind     (Moreno)
Soul Dance     (Redman)
Airegin     (Rollins)
By Myself     (J Mease)
But Beautiful      (Van Heusen/Burke)
Milagre Dos Peixes     (Milton Nasscimento)
A Flor E O Espinho     (Guilherme de Brito)
In A Silent Way      (Zawinul)
Mantra#5     (Redman)

First In Mind is the second album by Mike Moreno as a leader, released through label Criss Cross. (Criss Cross 1338 CD)
Recorded January 18, 2011 in Brooklyn, NY, USA by Michael Marciano.

Mike Moreno: Guitar
Aaron Parks: Piano
Matt Brewer: Bass
Kendrick Scott: Drums

This  diverse and eclectic collection of tunes comes together beautifully as a body of work through intelligent and musical arrangements.
Moreno’s playing is strong and melodic throughout.  I’ve come to greatly admire the playing of Moreno.  He has a vitality about his playing.  Strong and purposeful, always with direction and melodic development.  I can sense one foot of Moreno is firmly placed in the tradition of Jazz guitar yet there are many influences at play here perhaps best illustrated by the selection of material he chooses for this recording.

Moreno plays with mostly a clean tone and uses some delay in his sound, but not overly as to obscure the main voice.  He has great faculty and best of all,
knows how to temper his playing so that he always remains true to the music.  The opening track First in Mind, the only Moreno composition,  is melodic and sets the tone for the whole album to follow.  This tune uses interesting rhythmic phrases to create changes in momentum in the melody and the warm texture of the quartet here does remind me of Metheny, however only in spirit.  Aaron Parks sets a thoughtful piano solo followed by Moreno whose melodic weavings are a highlight.

The second track Soul Dance is a delightful waltz, the first of two tracks contained that are penned by Joshua Redman.  Moreno uses an acoustic here in a trio setting, omitting the piano.  The song has a haunting melody and features a wonderful upright solo by Matt Brewer whose tone is full and rich.  He weaves a story through the tune that demonstrates why he is such a sort after bassist today.   The following Moreno solo must not go without mention here.  His use of lovely chordal voicings punctuate his solo as it builds musically to incorporate exciting phrasing that then weaves us back to the return of the melody. Wonderful support throughout by Kendrick Scott who is quick to catch moments as they pass exchanging the impetus with those around him.

The album rendition of the Sonny Rollins classic Airegin is one of my favourites.  Using a 5/4 introduction the song then emerges as we know it arranged with punctuations and unison passages from the Rhythm section that lead us back to a restatement of the 5/4 introduction phrase.  Then its straight ahead blowing lead by Moreno whose solo is masterful incorporating short melodic and rhythmic motifs that build into flowing excursions.  It is interesting to note the alteration to the form on this track with one bar omitted from the A sections.

The CD continues with arrangements of two Latin compositions Milagre Dos Peixes and A Flor E O Espinho from M Nasscimento and Guilherme de Brito respectively.  These are uplifting, emotive and with strong melodicism that embodies much of this CD.  A quality that i feel unifies this body of work.

The album is a strong and musical experience that I have been rotating on my disc play continuously for some time.  I know for many Mike Moreno has been
well known, especially those who frequent the jazz scene in New York.  Not living in the Big Apple, it’s taking me a little longer than most to tune in.
But First In Mind is an album that I immensely enjoy and has certainly put Mike Moreno on my list of artists to look out for!

John Pin