Kenny Barron and Dave Holland - The Art of Conversation
(Impulse! 0602537946617. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)
The pairing of American pianist Kenny Barron with English bass player Dave Holland is not an obvious one. Although their paths have crossed since the mid 80s, duet performances only began in 2012 and The Art of Conversation is their first recording together in this format. Most of the ten selections are new or lesser-known original compositions by the two participants.
The opening tune, The Oracle, typifies the album in many ways. The bass ostinato is instantly identifiable and Holland plays as if his life depends on every note. Barron sounds a bit offhand at times, but his touch is bright, delicate and as consistent as ever.
An early highlight is the plaintive yearning of Rain, which brings Holland’s ravishing tone to the fore. After a unison theme statement, Charlie Parker’s bluesy Segment develops a terrific rhythmic push, and Barron’s attractive solo is full of subtle, melodic twists and turns.
Thelonious Monk played with gravitas and pained deliberation, and sometimes you could almost taste the sweat that went into his soulful creations. Barron knows Monk’s music inside out – and worked with two of his cohorts in the quartet Sphere – but his fluent, contained and tidy approach is Monk’s antithesis. During In Walked Bud, he resists any temptation to echo his traits, and produces audacious phrases with such apparent ease that they could even pass unnoticed. Barron’s composition The Only One has a Monkish verve and a melody reminiscent of “Hackensack”. The conversation in the title of the album is exemplified by the interlocking phrases exchanged by Barron and Holland after the latter’s solo.
Holland began working with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler around 1967. They were immediately compatible, but their musical closeness didn’t flourish until after the bassist’s move to the USA. Their frequent collaborations through the years always caused excitement; who will ever forget Holland’s contribution to Wheeler’s legendary birthday gigs? Waltz for K.W. is dedicated to his old friend and confirms a strong personal bond.
Almost regardless of the interpretation, Billy Strayhorn’s classic Day Dream is packed with a harmonic richness that one never tires of hearing. The longest track on the CD, it is delivered here with unhurried relish, and is a beautiful way to conclude an album that contains over an hour of mature, tasteful and gently stimulating music.