Ten Tunes is a loose and playful recording. The band hints at a multitude of styles; they touch on rock, country and funk, as well as Middle Eastern and Latin music, all within a jazz context. Despite the group's eclectic influences, Ten Songs works well as a cohesive whole. This can be attributed to two reasons. First, the group assembled here—leader Bill Barner on clarinet, Stan Smith on guitar, Roger Hines on bass and Danny Aguiar on drums—establish in the pocket grooves on each track, so that each song has an easy rhythmic appeal. Secondly, though the context of the songs may change, Bill Barner always writes around simple, singable melodies.
Ten Tunes can be divided into two sections. The first half is devoted to efficient songs that follow a more traditional jazz format. Highlights of this approach include "Opening Gambit," which begins with an emphatic rock backbeat and twangy, country influenced electric guitar, and "Charm Offensive," which fuses a memorable head with a samba feel. The latter half of the album contains the group's more lengthy, explorative songs, with a focus on ambiance and improvisation. "Connecting Dots" features a psychedelic, droning introduction and an excellent solo from Barner. The gem of the whole set may be the final song, "Palmas." An excellent modal improvisation by Stan Smith opens the song, which develops into a passionate, flamenco influenced piece with inspired soloing.
There is nothing too heavy here, but this is an enjoyable recording nonetheless. It is certainly worth a spin for those interested world-influenced jazz.