|Kenny Barrron. Photo credit: Benjamin Amure|
Kenny Barron Trio
(Ronnie Scott's, 28th March 2016. First night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Kenny Barron's regular trio with bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa (their association goes back 20 years) and drummer Johnathan Blake (ten years) has finally made a CD, thanks to the initiative of the head of Impulse Records, Jean-Philippe Allard. The presence, the accessibility of that document of their work sets one thinking...
One implication is that the 72-year old Philadelphia born pianist is currently getting the opportunity to explain and reflect on what he does. "I don't think of myself necessarily as an innovator,"he said in a recent interview (*) "But what I have contributed to jazz is keeping a commitment to the honesty of the music. I never do anything too slick and I play what I feel. I believe in having fun." Most of those traits (read on...) were on display last night, the first of two at Ronnie Scott's and part of an extensive series of European dates.
Another train of thought, when one has listened to the album a few times, is to appreciate even more that Kenny Barron trio gigs - in contrast to the record that, to state the obvious, is unchanging - are never remotely the same. Yes, the master craftsmanship derived from five and a half decades spent professionally at the keyboard is always there, but the vibe is different each time. At one, in 2011 (REVIEW) I remember, it took quite a while - the other two writers covering the gig that night had already left - for him to dig really deep and discover something very special. At another, in 2014. and with a different drummer (REVIEW) the sense of complete enjoyment was there from the very first touch of the keys, and never went away.
Last night was different again. This was one where - for some reason, who knows - he seemed to be searching for the quiet, for the half-light, for the introvert in himself. The endings were mostly quiet disappearances. Magic Dance felt like it was being taken slightly more quietly and a notch down in tempo compared to the record. The standard he played was Softly as in a Morning Sunrise (geddit?) . One musician I spoke to afterwards was wondering if something was wrong. For some punters with short attention spans, the quietness was a tough challenge. The absolute highlight - for me at least - was the Charlie Haden tune Nightfall, which felt like one continuous unfolding journey, a beautifully shaped arc of melody. Every touch of the keys seemed balanced, contained, uncluttered, focussed. Just lovely.
An aside, and by way of contrast. I realised long afterwards that there was more than one pianist called Barron in the house last night, who also has a new CD as leader. Rob Barron was getting ready to play the late set. His about-to-be-self-released debut album as leader communicates a deep sense of enjoyment, precisely the fun that Kenny describes, and wasn't quite getting to last night. I hope he gave his namesake Kenny a copy of his album too!
Softly as in a Morning Sunrise (Romberg)
Encore (?) Fast "Rhythm Changes"
All tunes by Kenny Barron except as stated. Tunes from the CD The Book of Intuition, on Impulse Records (LINK) marked with +
LINK: The Urban Music Scene interview with Kenny Barron