Kenny Barron (1943)
featured prominently in the groups of
Dizzy Gillespie (1962-66), Freddie Hubbard (1966-70), Yusef Lateef (1970-75), Ron Carter (1976-80) and Stan Gets (1984-91) before launching a career as an
elegant evangelist of hard-bop music for the Wynton Marsalis generation.
His style was a sprightly cocktail of Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock, using piano, electric piano, clavinet and synthesizer.
However, his real strength came from his compositional skills, as proven by:
the nine-minute Sunset on Sunset to Dawn (april 1973),
the ten-minute Peruvian Blue and the ten-minute Two Areas on Peruvian Blue (march 1974),
the nine-minute Spirits and the 13-minute Hellbound on Lucifer (april 1975),
the 12-minute Sunshower (already debuted in 1975) and the ten-minute Innocence on Innocence (1978),
Row House and Dew Drop on Golden Lotus (april 1980).
In the 1980s Barron began to play more and more standards and notable originals
the solo-piano Enchanted Flower on At the Piano (february 1981),
the twelve-minute And Then Again on Imo Live (june 1982), that debuted the trio with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Ben Riley,
the eleven-minute Spiral on Spiral (june 1982),
Lemuria on Autumn in New York (december 1984),
the ten-minute Water Lily on Scratch (march 1985), in a trio with Dave Holland on bass,
Phantoms on What If (february 1986), in a quintet with trumpet and tenor saxophone.
The music was not revolutionary but the repertory was impressive.
At the same time, Barron formed
Sphere, i.e. Barron's trio plus tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, that,
after a Thelonious Monk tribute album, and a mediocre
Flight Path (january 1983), gave him the opportunity to write
Baiana and Lunacy for Four For All (march 1987).
Barron, now a star, was devoting himself to
terrifyingly tedious collections of standards and old originals,
notably wasting a trio with
bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Roy Haynes
for the awkward selections of Wanton Spirit (february 1994).
Only a few compositions displayed the old touch:
the bossanova The Moment and the romantic Tear Drop on The Moment (august 1991),
Gardenia on Sambao (may 1992),
Mythology and Nikara's Song on Other Places (february 1993).
Then Barron staged the spectacular rebirth of Things Unseen (march 1995), featuring an unusually large ensemble (for someone who always preferred the trio format) of tenorist John Stubblefield, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, guitarist John Scofield, violin, bass, drums and percussion. It contained several lengthy originals that displayed his old magic:
the 13-minute Marie Laveau,
the nine-minute The Sequel,
Then the consummate pianist started delivering again his melodic, swinging and occasionally adventurous compositions:
Twilight Song on Night And The City (september 1996), a duet with Charlie Haden,
The Wizard on Spirit Song (may 1999),
Zumbi and Clouds on Canta Brasil (february 2002), with a Brazilian rhythm section,
and (possibly his swan song) the 18-minute Images on Images (october 2003), in a quintet with saxophonist/flutist Anne Drummond, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Kim Thompson.
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