Six nights at the Village Vanguard, NYC
Kenny Barron is often called the “pianist’s pianist.” Whether the musical mood is a smokey blues, a romantic ballad, a hot Latin groove, or a sultry swing number, the Kenny Barron Trio deftly navigates the creative realm of modern jazz improvisation with self-assured style and grace. Elegant, sensitive, and lyrical, Barron’s impeccable keyboard skills have made him a favorite of jazz fans everywhere for over forty years and forty albums. His new recording Book of Intuition is another masterpiece.
Barron’s prodigious recording output has earned nine Grammy award nominations over his illustrious career. In 2010, Barron was designated a Jazz Master for his lifelong contributions to music by the National Endowments for the Arts, the highest distinction awarded to a jazz musician. In addition to his NEA Jazz Master award, Barron, a six-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association Best Pianist, has been inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame. He is also a consistent winner in numerous readers and critics polls for DownBeat, Jazz Times, Jazziz and other music publications. Now in his early seventies with a six-decade career behind him, Barron believes he is still evolving as an artist, more willing than ever to take chances in the realm of music making.
A native of Philadelphia, Barron was still a teenager when he first started working with many of the jazz greats, including Philly Joe Jones, Lee Morgan, Roy Haynes, and Dizzy Gillespie. After his many sideman gigs working with the jazz elite, Barron was clearly a talent to be reckoned with. In 1973, he debuted as a bandleader with Sunset to Dawn on the Muse Records label, the start of many excellent recording sessions to follow. At about the same time, he joined the music faculty of Rutgers University (a position he held until 2000). Some of his students have become major jazz artists in their own right, including Regina Bell, David Sanchez and Terence Blanchard. In the late ‘70s, he started an ongoing trio with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Ben Riley. They provided the rhythmic and harmonic propulsion for Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, among other amazing soloists. The ‘80s were an especially creative time of growth as he entered into a longtime collaboration with saxophone legend Stan Getz. He also co-founded the jazz super group Sphere, a tribute to Thelonious Monk, using his own trio with longtime Monk saxophonist Charlie Rouse. Ben Riley was also a veteran of Monk’s quartet. After Rouse’s death in 1988, Sphere went dormant until they reunited ten years later, replacing Rouse with saxman Gary Bartz.
Since 2000, Barron has continued to tour and release excellent recordings with a variety of sidemen, often winning Grammys for his recordings, as with Night in the City (a duet with bassist Charlie Haden) and Wanton Spirit (a trio with Haden and drum legend Roy Haynes). Images, his 2004 release, featured vibraphone virtuoso Stefan Harris. Given Barron’s long list of accomplishments, it’s not for nothing that the Los Angeles Times calls him, “one of the top jazz pianists in the world.”