Kenny Barron Trio: Book Of Intuition – a Review

Kenny Barron

Regular readers of my blog know that I’m a big fan of Kenny Barron. To me, he’s the ultimate partner for duos, see for example his great collaboration with Dave Holland, The Art Of Conversation (reviewed here), or the amazing live work with Stan Getz on People Time (see Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums).

So when Kenny came out with a new trio album on Impulse, I obviously had to check it out.

Book of Intuition (Impulse 2016)

Kenn Barron Trio Book Of Intuition Review 24 96 Impulse

Kenny Barron plays with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums here. The trio has been working together for a while, but this is apparently their first recording as a trio.

Unfortunately, while I’m still a huge fan of Kenny, I’m getting more of a mixed impression from this album.

The first for tracks are Kenny Barron originals.

Let’s start with the opening track, Magic Dance, an medium tempo track with some latin elements in the groove. In a live concert, this could be a nice warm-up, but on a recorded album, it kind of leaves me a bit cold. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing special either.

The next track, Bud Like, although this is already picking up on drive and swing, it still isn’t something that get’s me fully excited. Cook’s Bay is again solid swing.

Where Kenny and his trio really shine are on slower tracks. The first example is In The Slow Lane. Another beautiful example is the Monk composition Light Blue, where Kenny plays essentially solo.

Probably my favorite track on the album is the ballad Nightfall, and here you get again all I like about this amazing pianist. And maybe I just like Johnathan Blake best when he uses brushes? Kitagawa also gets to solo here, and his sound is just beautiful.

So in a nutshell, would I recommend this album? Yes and no. I wouldn’t call it an essential addition to the catalogue of Jazz Trio albums, but it certainly has very beautiful moments. I encourage you to check it out on a streaming site before buying.

My rating: 3-4 stars (3 stars for the uptempo tracks, 4 for the slower ones)

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters)

 

The Art of Conversation – Dave Holland and Kenny Barron

Dave Holland

I got a lot of reactions to my 25 essential Jazz albums. One of them was saying: but what of Dave Holland? Well, I’m overall not such a big fan.

I’ve heard him live once at the New Morning in Paris, and very much enjoyed the concert, but his ECM albums usually don’t excite me that much. I must admit I haven’t gone through his entire discography yet, probably there are some gems to be discovered.

One such gems is the album below.

Jazz Duos

Let’s face it, there is a reason why Jazz is usually played at least in trio form: Duos are mostly boring. There is just something lacking without e.g. a drummer.

But to make sure: the rule above has its exceptions. And one person is usually involved in these, and that is the brilliant pianist Kenny Barron. He is one of the few who can pull it off without drums, as he’s already swinging like crazy, and you basically have the drum track in your head right with it.

One excellent example of an outstanding duo recording I already mentioned in the 25 essential Jazz albums: his collaboration with Stan Getz in People Time.

The Art Of Conversation

Kenny Barron Dave Holland The Art Of Conversation Impulse 2014

This 2014 Impulse album is excellent. And as a Keith Jarrett fan it pains me to admit that this collaboration is better to my ears than both the recent Jarrett / Charlie Haden duo recordings(Jasmine and Last Dance).

It is basically the result of a long tour of these two outstanding musicians together in 2012, actually, Jean-Philippe Allard, the producer of People Time mentioned above, saw them in concert in 2012 in Paris and asked them whether they wanted to do a duo recording. Luckily both agreed.

There are beautiful long ballads like Rain, Swinging monsters like In Walked Bud (I never would have believed that anybody else than Monk can pull this track off). In Your Arms is an outstanding Dave Holland original with a lot of intensity. Basically, this album really never becomes boring, but it is like to smart people having an intelligent conversation, the title is spot-on.

My rating: 4 stars

You can get it here (Qobuz) and here (HDTracks)

Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part II

Following up to part I of my 25 Essential Jazz albums, here are the entries 13-25. Again no ranking implied in the numbers, this is just a list of albums I think everybody should have heard, and to give you a good understanding of what it is I really like in Jazz.

13. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin (1958)

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Moanin Blue Note 24 192

Well, my entire mini-series on the Jazz Messengers’s spin-offs wouldn’t have been a series without this group. I’m not sure why I haven’t written about this album yet, but I eventually will.

14: Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands – Here Comes Charlie (1961)

Ella Fitzgerald Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie Verve 1961 24 192

Ella again is somebody with so many good albums to choose from. Just to give an example, the Ella and Louis series has been recommended everywhere, and I concur. The live recording Mack the Knife or her many songbook releases are also excellent.

So why this one? Well, purely subjectively again, it was one of my first I ever owned, and it’s got the outstanding 5 star track Cry Me A River.

15. Wayne Shorter: Adam’s Apple (1966)

Wayne Shorter Adam's Apple Blue Note

Already reviewed here.

16. Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1963)

Duke Ellington Money Jungle

Duke Ellington obviously had a huge influence on Jazz, also as a composer of many standards. I’m not really into big band, but luckily he also did some albums with smaller crews, like the famous Duke Ellington & John Coltrane album, or this one, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach. I mean, what could go wrong if you combine these giants? This by the way has the best version ever of the great standard Caravan.

17. Stan Getz and Kenny Baron – People Time (1992)

Stan Getz Kenny Barron People Time The Complete Recordings

This is another example of a large box of “last concerts” recordings similar to the Bill Evans Consecration I wrote about in Part I of this post. This concert was recorded in Copenhagen very close to Stan Getz too early death.

Often duos in Jazz lack something, not here. This one is just beautiful, and a pleasure to listen to. If you don’t want to go for the full 6 box Complete Recordings, there’s also a 2 box compilation.

18. Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961)

Oliver Nelson Blues And The Abstract Truth 24 96

Oliver Nelson in a way is the One Hit Wonder of jazz. Or could you name any other album from him (with the possible exception of less known and less interesting part II follow-up with a different cast)?

In any case, just look at the line-up here, Evans!, Chambers!, Hubbard!, Haynes!, Dolphy! and you know you’re onto something. One of my favorite Impulse albums.

19. Oscar Peterson: Exclusively For My Friends (1968)

Oscar Peterson Exclusively For My Friends MPS 24 88

You could nominate many Oscar Peterson albums here. He is really one of the best pianists of all times. However, this set recorded in the cosy Black Forest in the personal studio of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, is probably one of the best, and most intimate. This album has recently been remastered from the original tapes.

20. Ray Brown: Summer Wind – Life At The Loa

Ray Brown Trio Summer Wind Live At The Loa Concord

You cannot talk about Oscar Peterson without mentioning Ray Brown, his legendary bassist. Ray has recorded several outstanding albums with the combo of Jeff Hamilton on drums and Gene Harris on the piano. To quote one of the tracks: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Well, this one’s got plenty.

21. Diana Krall: The Girl In The Other Room

Diana Krall The Girl in The Other Room 24 192

Talking about Jeff Hamilton, he also plays on this one.

But now you may ask me: what, 25 albums, only 3 vocal jazz among them, and you chose Krall vs. all the other alternatives? Well yes, you could argue about the choice of Krall in general, but not this album. This to me is the best she ever did, by far. The influence of her husband, Elvis Costello, on the songs is clearly there, and this is the first time in my opinion that she truly moves beyond the (very high-class) cocktail bar jazz of her previous albums. Unfortunately, she’s never again reached this level of musical depth since (I personally didn’t like her last two albums, Wallflower and Glad Rag Doll).

22. Grant Green – Idle Moments (1965)

Grant Green Idle Moments 24 192 Blue Note

I’m usually not a big fan of guitar jazz, but the nearly 15 minutes of the title track of this album with so many outstanding musicians, including Joe Henderson (see my post on him here) justifies the including here. I guarantee there’s not one minute of boredom in this slowly developing and evolving track.

23. Michael Wollny Trio – Weltentraum (2014)

OK, so ECM, the great German jazz label, got their share of albums here. Let’s make sure we add another great German jazz label, ACT.

Michael Wollny is one of the great German talents of today, and both the 2014 album Weltentraum as well as this live version are creative, inspired, and fun to listen to.

Michael Wollny Trio Weltentraum Live ACT

24. Alboran Trio – Near Gale (2008)

Alboran Trio Near Gale

Another ACT album. The Italian Alboran Trio seems to have completely disappeared since this 2008 album, and it’s equally great predecessor, Meltemi (2006). What a pity, this is again to me the epitome of a piano trio album.

25. Keith Jarrett: Solo Concerts Bremen-Lausanne (1973)

Keith Jarrett Solo Concerts Bremen Lausann

Yes, I’m cheating. I said in my own rules only one album per artist.

Well, but first of all I make the rules on my own blog, and then this blog has Keith Jarrett in the subtitle. I couldn’t walk away from this without a Jarrett Solo Concerto, given that this was the topic of my very first blog that started this entire adventure entry here.

I could have chosen the Köln Concert, and yes that is a must have for everybody. But so are the Sun Bear Concerts, Bremen Lausanne, The Carnegie Hall Concert or pretty much any other of his solo albums for that matter.

I still have the original vinyl of the excellent Bremen Lausanne, and it is basically just a placeholder for his entire solo works. If I have enough time, I’ll try eventually to review in detail all Keith Jarrett solo concerts.

So, that’s it folks, looking forward to your feedback!

Download sources:

Moanin: here (Qobuz)

Here comes Charlie: here (Qobuz)

People Time: here (Qobuz)

Oliver Nelson: here (Qobuz)

Oscar Peterson: here (Highresaudio)

Ray Brown: here (HDTracks)

Diana Krall: here (Qobuz)

Chick Corea: here (Qobuz)

Bremen-Lausanne: here (Qobuz)

Michael Wollny: here (Qobuz)

Alboran Trio: here (Qobuz)