Kenny Barron Trio – Book Of Intuition – Impulse!

Kenny Barron Trio – Book Of Intuition – Impulse! B0024648-02, 58.23 ****:
A master class in taste, swing, and imagination.

(Kenny Barron – piano; Kiyoshi Kitagawa – doublebass; Johnathan Blake – drums)

Kenny Barron is one of those pianists who is “beyond category” as it relates to taste, swing, and imagination, along with the likes of other now departed luminaries such as Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and Cedar Walton.  In this latest release entitled Book Of Intuition, Barron uses his own compositional repertoire as the foundation of the session, with a couple of Thelonious Monk’s more obtuse themes, plus a delightful Charlie Haden number.

Working with his long time compatriots bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake, Barron uses sympathy and understanding from his band-mates to provide an elegant and smart mainstream session. “Magic Dance” sets the pace with a lively swinging Brazilian-styled excursion that has all the elements needed to engage the participants. As the name implies, “Bud Like” has Bud Powell written all over it from the strong single-note lines and blistering pace to the Powell phrasing. Barron takes advantage of Blake’s rhythmic drumming to both “walk the walk” and “talk the talk”.

In 2010, the film Another Harvest Moon directed by Greg Swartz was released to little acclaim and even less commercial success. The music for the film was written by Kenny Barron and he included two pieces for this session namely “In The Slow Lane” and “Prayer”. In the former, the finger-light brush-work of drummer Blake, sets the stage for Barron’s quiet meanderings all the while bassist Kitagawa’s strong bass lines provides the underpinnings for the number. As for the latter composition, there is an opening arco bass and piano duet that establishes the theme. As Blake’s tom toms add color along with the cymbals Barron delves into the improvisation on a waltz-like structure, that eventually segues back to the arco bass and piano narrative.

For a six-year period from the early to late 1980s, Kenny Barron was part of the Thelonious Monk tribute band called Sphere. Consequently Barron became acquainted with Monk’s extensive repertoire including many of his lesser-known themes which included “Shuffle Boil” and “Light Blue” both of which are presented on this disc. Both tunes contain the well-recognized mannerisms, favored by the maestro. However on the latter number, these propensities are highlighted because we can listen to their full effect as Barron does a solo piano take on the tune with the dissonances easily identifiable.

The album closes with a Charlie Haden original, “Nightfall,” a wonderful ballad done in a Latin-etched style. Of singular note is the tasty bass solo offering from Kitawaga, as Blake’s brush work in the background gives the rendition a particular resonance. Barron’s own investigation of the theme is especially satisfying.

TrackList: Magic Dance; Bud Like; Cook’s Bay; In The Slow Lane; Shuffle Boil; Light Blue; Lunacy; Dreams; Prayer; Nightfall

—Pierre Giroux

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