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Joe Farrell – Skate Board Park – Xanadu/Elemental Music & Kenny Barron – At the Piano – Xanadu

Two great additions to the Xanadu Master Edition catalog – Joe Farrell & Kenny Barron.

Joe Farrell – Skate Board Park – Xanadu/Elemental Music 906078 – 1979 – 39:55 – ****:

(Joe Farrell – tenor sax; Chick Corea – acoustic & electric piano; Bob Magnusson – bass; Lawrence Marable – drums)

Although veteran multi-reed jazz artist Joe Farrell mastered clarinet, flute, and soprano saxophone, it was the tenor sax to which he was most attracted. Farrell recorded his first album with Maynard Ferguson, and followed up with Jaki Byard for a period. Gigs with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band was well as an extended tenure with drummer Elvin Jones prepared him for stints with Woody Herman, Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock. In the early 1970s he was a charter member of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever fusion band (for which he is most known).

In 1978 Joe was ready and excited about a date for Xanadu where he could return to his straight-ahead bebop roots in a quartet setting. Backed by Corea and long time mate West Coast bassist, Bob Magnusson, iconic drummer Lawrence Marable was added to make a first-rate quartet. The song list was a mix of Corea and Farrell compositions with strong standards to round out the single day session.

The title track has a stop time bop theme. Joe’s tenor intensity increases throughout the opening track to a fevered pitch. “Cliche Romance” is next and is a bossa ballad with Chick having a tasty Fender Rhodes solo. “High Wire-The Aerialist” finds Bob Magnusson locked into Corea’s melody. Farrell enters with several bluesy choruses.

I dug Joe’s take on the standard, “Speak Low.” Done uptempo, Farrell easily glides through the chord changes. “You Go to My Head” brings to mind the best of old school tenor balladeers as Joe’s tone is romantic to the max. “Bara-Bara” features Corea again on electric piano with Magnusson in full sync. This is a great reissue and the acoustics are first rate, especially the bass line mix. Kudos go out to Zev Feldman for adding this release to the Xanadu Master Edition roster.

Tracklist: Skate Board Park, Cliche Romance, High Wire- The Aerialist, Speak Low, You Go to My Head, Bara-Bara

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Kenny Barron – At The Piano – Xanadu/Elemental Music 906076 (1981), 50:54 ****1/2:

Listening to the brilliant reissue of Kenny Barron’s At the Piano from 1981 is like attending a master class from a piano genius. Fortunately Kenny is still with us and going strong in his early 70s. This CD covers all the bases honoring Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and Duke Ellington with half the tracks written by Barron.

“The Star Crossed Lovers” from Ellington and Strayhorn finds Kenny recording this tune for the first time in his career. It’s done gently with graceful flourishes. Monk’s “Misterioso” is a blues with stride overtones. “Calypso” is a joyous percussive romp making you long for a tropical clime.

“Body and Soul” is turned a full 360 degrees as Kenny fully explores this classic. “Enchanted Flower” is a gem of gentle reflection evoking the joy of a young child exploring a Spring garden. The bonus track, “Wazuri Blues” has a gospel vibe that should bring on toe tapping. Jazz piano aficionados will love hearing Kenny Barron on a solo recording of piano mastery in superb acoustics.

Trackist: Bud-Like, The Star Crossed Lovers, Misterioso, Calypso, Body and Soul, Enchanted Flower, Rhythm-A-Ning, Wazuri Blues (bonus track)

—Jeff Krow

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