Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kenny Barron Trio - Book Of Intuition (2016)

Kenny Barron, the 72-year-old Philadelphia-born virtuoso, is the kind of jazz pianist whose resources are familiar and much-covered by mainstream swing players, but whose joyfully extravagant execution is a rarity today. That quality transforms this trio set from being a canter through a smooth-jazzy assortment of soft ballads, Latin smoochers and glossy swing. Barron has absorbed an encyclopaedia of jazz methods from a life on the road with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz, and it pours out in these tracks. Magic Dance, with its glistening chords and Latin-jazz tick, sounds smooth at first but unleashes an impulsive torrent. Ballads such as In the Slow Lane display his impeccably light touch and Thelonious Monk’s Shuffle Boil isn’t Monkishly lateral but swings furiously. The jangling Lunacy is a collective bustle prodded by bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake, while Nightfall is delicate drift through slow chords. There might be too many notes for some on this record, but it’s almost all affectingly musical just the same.

If you have been vaguely wondering what happened to wholehearted, outgoing jazz piano in the grand manner, just listen to this album’s opening track, Magic Dance. It has everything – attractive melody, unbuttoned swing, virtuosity and enough rhythmic sleight-of-hand to keep you wide awake. Among the dozen or so most admired pianists in jazz today, Kenny Barron strikes me as the one who wears his mastery most comfortably. From a languid piece such as Dreams, to Thelonious Monk’s fiendishly tricky Shuffle-Boil, there’s a gentle firmness to his playing. In some mysterious way he makes the piano sound bigger too. Bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake follow every move with seamless subtlety.

Magic Dance
Bud Like
Cook's Bay
In The Slow Lane
Shuffle Boil
Light Blue

Kenny Barron, piano
Kiyoshi Kitagawa, double bass
Johnathan Blake, drums