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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Dec 12, 2012

Kenny Barron will be celebrating his 70thbirthday in 2013, and you can bet we’ll have a celebratory Podcast that day. One of our finest, most versatile and hard working pianists, Barron shows no sign of slowing down as he approaches this milestone.

He has a new CD set to come out in 2013, and he is currently playing a series of duets with his friend, bass legend Dave Holland. The pair will get the chance to settle in for a four night run at the Jazz Standard this week (December 13-16), giving jazz fans across the tri-state area an early Christmas present.

Born 1943 in Philadelphia PA, Barron was working with drummer Philly Joe Jones while still in high school. By age 21, he’d gigged with Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan and James Moody.  The latter recommended him to Dizzy Gillespie, who hired Kenny before ever hearing him play a note. In 1974, the pia­nist released Sunset To Dawn, the first of his forty–plus albums as a leader, along with easily as many more as a sideman.

Holland has been called “of a generation of bassists who, in the '60s and '70s, built upon the innovations of slightly older players like Scott LaFaro, Gary Peacock, and Barre Phillips, carrying the instrument to yet another new level of creativity.” Known for his pioneering work on electric bass with Miles Davis, he will be playing double bass with Barron.

I caught up with Kenny as he prepped for the gigs, and asked him about his secrets for playing intimate group settings. Click here to listen to Podcast 325 and get his answer, along with his comments on many of my favorite albums to which he contributed, such as:

Ron Carter – “No Flowers, Please” from Superstrings. Barron occupied the piano chair for a number of the legendary bass player’s projects. This Carter original from a 1981 release features Carter on bass, Barron on piano,  John Tropea on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and the late Ralph McDonald on percussion, plus a solid 16 piece string section.

Charlie Haden & Kenny Barron – “You Don’t Know What Love Is” from Night in the City. Bass-Piano duets at the highest level – the “country” of Haden and the “city” of Barron make this 1998 album and this standard in particular worth repeated listenings.

Jane Monheit – “If” from Come Dream With Me. Highly sought after by singers for his ability to be supportive without merely accompanying them, these sessions were a good example of how a great jazz group can really swing, even when backing an ingénue singer. The musicians include Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Tom Harrell (trumpet), Richard Bona (guitar and bass), Barron (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums),

Abbey Lincoln – “Down Here Below” from A Turtle’s Dream. The most sublime track on a transcendent CD includes Ms. Lincoln on vocals, Barron on piano, Charlie Haden on bass; and Victor Lewis on drums, with strings arranged by Randolph Noel. A 1996 Grammy nominee and a classic.

Stan Getz & Kenny Barron – “Surrey With the Fringe On Top” from People Time.  One of the first times I heard a sax-piano duet was on these lives takes from Getz’ last gigs at the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen in March of 1991. Getz died three months later. The album has been chosen part of NPR’s Basic Jazz Record Library and has been re-released in an expanded version as People Time: The Complete Recordings, all 48 numbers (covering 24 different tunes) from the concerts included.

Kenny Barron – “Be-Bop” from Wanton Spirit. My favorite Barron album was also a 1996 Grammy nominee. Barron remembers warmly how this great group of musicians – Barron on piano, Haden on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums – came together for a magical session.

Kenny Barron – “Until Then” from Canta Brasil. Barron’s next release will be a CD recorded in Brazil, available on Verve. He’s no stranger to that sound, having recorded this album with the all-star group Trio de Paz (Nilson Matta, bass; Duduka Da Fonseca, drums; and Romero Lubambo, guitar). This Barron tune also has Anne Drummond on flute and Valtinho on percussion.