Tracks 1 to 5 and 7 to 9 - Recorded at Rocky Mountain Recorders, Denver, Colorado on Dec 11 to 13, 1990 & Jan 11 & 12, 1991.
Tracks 6 & 10 - Recorded at Schnee Studio, North Hollywood, California, on February 10 & 11, 1995.
Mastered at Sante Fe, NM.
"Meeting Steve Barta was a serendipitous experience. I was hired to play a benefit gig in Colorado Springs and Steve and his group were one of four bands on the program. I hear a lot of different music on the road but I find that most players unfortunately fall into the trap of imitating the current trends. However, there was something about Steve's music that caught my attention - it was very melodic, lyrical and, most importantly, there was something original about his compositions.
After listening to the album many times now, it strikes me that the originality I hear in Steve's music might, in part, be a result of his living in the country. Most professional musicians live in urban environments for obvious reasons. Steve has chosen the more difficult path for a performer by living in the Colorado Rockies - there aren't a lot of available gigs in the mountains. However, the "spirit" of that rural environment seems to emanate from his compositions and creates a feeling that is different from what I hear in other "contemporary jazz" - something more substantial, more vital and more visual.
Another aspect to the originality I hear is Steve's incorporation of Brazilian feeling into his work. This might sound silly, but it's kind of like "Brazilian Mountain High," or, light feijoada, or a curious blend of Aaron Copland and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
I think Blue River is special. I hope you enjoy it!"
- Herbie Mann with Janeal Arison
With this release, Colorado-based pianist Steve Barta has produced an album full of pleasant, relaxing Brazilian-inflected contemporary jazz. With the assistance of flute king Herbie Mann and his musical associates, Barta works a melodic landscape located somewhere between the hills of Windham and the beach at Ipanema. His original compositions are accessible and attractive, and his piano solos recall Bill Evans in his economical choice of notes. Barta's music ranges from the lyrical beauty of "In Another Life" to the percussive percolation of "On the Edge." The immediately likable title track has the happy feel of a Vince Guaraldi piece, while "Rossport" is a nice upbeat number with flute and piano doubling the melody to produce an appealing, lighter-than-air effect. Dori Caymmi's ballad "Like an Old Piano" receives a tender and affectionate treatment, and "Wish Upon a Canvas" conjures up thoughts of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Herbie Mann is more subdued here than on his own recordings, staying primarily in the lower register as well as using alto and bass flutes. His solos are compact, as Barta's arrangements generally allow limited space for extended improvisation. However, on "The High Road," Mann is given an opportunity to stretch out a bit, and on "Umtradah," he pulls out some of the high altitude phrases which are his trademark while the rhythm section cooks underneath. Tasteful and understated from beginning to end, Blue River shows Barta to be a talented, melodic writer and performer whose music soothes and insinuates itself into the listener's consciousness.
All Music Guide