Producing a darker tone from the Maybeck Yamaha piano than do some other participants in the series, Kenny Barron gets a chance to flaunt a wider range of his influences than he usually does in a group format. Barron opens with a stride-ish "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," which sports a few minor fluffs (this is live, folks), and then explores a number of diverse styles under the bop umbrella. Barron's "Bud-Like" has reminiscences of "Un Poco Loco," built on an ostinato bass pattern most of the way, with a witty "Bemsha Swing." As usual with Maybeck, the sound of the hall's bright, brittle Yamaha piano is brilliantly captured.
Kenny Barron and Jimmy Owens' first recording was a solid debut. The exciting title cut, "You Had Better Listen," composed by Jimmy Owens, is good, basic, uptempo jazz, nothing fancy, no frills. The Jimmy Owens-Kenny Barron Quintet doesn't condescend like some jazz artists tend to do; casuals can groove, relate, nod their heads in approval and feel righteous about it. Owens plays some beautiful trumpet scales, while Barron keeps busy banging chord progressions. The other members of the quintet are Benny Maupin (tenor sax, flute), Chris White (bass), Freddie Waits (drums on tracks one, two and four), and Rudy Collins (drums on tracks three through five).
In the 1990s, Kenny Barron was finally recognized as one of jazz's top pianists, recording a series of top-notch and consistently inventive releases. This CD has seven of Barron's originals in which he is teamed with Ralph Moore (tenor and soprano), vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Victor Lewis, and sometimes percussionist Mino Cinelu. These fine performances help to define the modern mainstream of the period. In addition, there are a pair of standards ("For Heaven's Sake" and a lengthy version of "I Should Care") that are played as sensitive duets with Reid. Excellent and often exquisite music.
Sambao is Kenny Barron's tribute to Brazilian music done his way. These original compositions by the peerless pianist combine jazz and samba in a modernistic way, with no copying of tunes from the master Antonio Carlos Jobim, and no hint of the populist Stan Getz approach due to the lack of a lead instrument, save Barron's attractive and inventive piano. He's accompanied by heavyweights of the Rio-cum-New York City scene, including guitarist Toninho Horta, bassist Nico Assumpção, and French-born percussionist Mino Cinelu. Barron's (and most people's) favorite jazz drummer Victor Lewis is included, reinforcing the rhythms expertly as usual…
Kenny Barron has been a respected jazz pianist since the early '60s, but it wasn't until the mid-'70s that he began coming into his own as a composer; deftly working complex time signatures and mercurial melodies into seamlessly swinging numbers, agile sambas, and lovely ballads. Fifteen years on, Invitation finds Barron in full maturity as a writer and in the sympathetic company of tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, bassist David Williams, and drummer Lewis Nash. Barron's democratic pen runs the gamut here as he distills Monk's angular jubilance on "And Then Again," produces one of his most beautiful ballads in "Dewdrop," and works a fine bossa nova groove on "Joanne Julia"…
Kenny Barron could easily go unidentified if some of the selections on this LP were played for a listener during a "blindfold test" – he sounds quite unrecognizable on the three numbers on which he plays electric piano. Barron, who is joined by electric bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Freddie Waits, and the colorful percussion of both Richard Landrum and Warren Smith on his five originals and one by Waits, utilizes electricity with intelligence and creativity. His songs are moody and complex yet somewhat accessible and this underrated set would certainly surprise some of his current fans. Barron is the main soloist on every selection while Landrum and Smith's versatile colors add a lot to the unusual session's value.
Although brief at just over 42 minutes long, this is a satisfying effort from pianist Kenny Barron. His second Enja release documents a quintet consisting of trumpeter Wallace Roney, tenor saxophonist John Stubblefield, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Victor Lewis. The entire quintet is showcased on four Barron originals, the haunting melody of "Phantoms," the freebop of the title track, the relaxed swing of "Voyage," and the lovely waltz "Lullabye."
The cultured piano style of Kenny Barron has graced many albums in the last half century. He is an easy swinger deeply admired for his nonpareil musicianship and innate sensitivity to the needs of his musical companions of the moment. Born in 1943 he was gigging with Philly Joe Jones at sixteen and soon playing in a band with his tenor saxist brother Bill. In 1962 he was hired by Dizzy Gillespie and the five year stint he had with Dizzy established him firmly on the jazz scene throughout the world.
Kenny Barron was honored as an NEA Jazz Master on January 12, 2010, and it was a recognition that was due. Since entering the jazz scene in the early '60s, he has made his mark as a sideman (especially with Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz), solo pianist, leader, and composer. These 2009 sessions pair him with frequent collaborator Ben Riley and fellow veteran George Mraz on bass.