Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Kenny Barron Trio - Book of Intuition (Impulse, 2016)

Pianist and composer Kenny Barron has had a very successful career as both a leader and a sideman on dates stretching from the mid-1960’s to the present. He recorded often with Stan Getz and was a regular at the legendary Bradley’s in New York City before striking out on his own with a series of well received albums as a leader for Verve in the 1990’s. On this album, he is playing with his working trio of Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Jonathan Blake on drums. “Magic Dance” opens the album with a peaceful tone, and Barron has a very graceful way of approaching his instrument, so he is able to move the trio forward in a classy manner with medium paced tempo and rhythm. Barron then takes a more muscular approach to the piano; building and developing a more percussive feel with a downpour of notes before deftly moving back to the melody and slowing to a calm conclusion. Since the following song is seemingly dedicated to Bud Powell, it is appropriate that “Bud Like” is lightning fast, with cascading waves of piano notes rippling along with fastidious bass and drums boiling underneath. Everything simmers and the music is tumbling and spiraling, under great control of these excellent musicians and it is a blast to listen to. Barron and Blake break out to play longer sections of improvisation against each other as the music rolls on to the end. The highlight of the album was a wonderful version of the Thelonious Monk composition “Shuffle Boil.” It opens with that chunky Monk like feel, and builds to a melody that the musicians clearly love to play with. They use the wonderful rhythm inherent in Monk compositions to move in separate directions allowing fresh sounding bass and drums to support Barron’s spritely piano as he moves through the thicket of his improvisation. The trio are all witty and charming on this performance conversing as equals like when Kitagawa takes an excellent bass solo, which is supported by subtle piano chords and drums before there is again a trade off of piano and drum snippets to end the performance. “Lunacy” was a blast to hear, with an unrelenting full trio opening where they put the pedal to the floor and seriously lift off. But there is method to their supposed madness and everyone is in complete control of their musical faculties as Barron’s punchy piano notes ripple across the top of the tumult provided by the bass and drums. You can really hear the result of all of the years these men have spent playing on this piece. Despite the daredevil speed, they are all pulling in the same direction and that is what makes this so impressive and thrilling to hear. This is a very good mainstream jazz LP. Barron is one of the esteemed elders of the music at this point, but he is not resting on his laurels. His passion for making great music remains undaunted, and his accompanists share his vision. Book Of Intuition -

Send comments to Tim.