Barron At Bradley’s

Nearly three years ago, I reviewed in Jazz Times a CD that pianist Kenny Barron recorded with bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley at Bradley’s, the lamented Greenwich Village club.

Barron takes “Solar” at a fast clip that does nothing to suppress his development of original melodic ideas or inventiveness in voicings. There’s not a cliche to be heard. Drummond aces another solo, Riley and Barron exchange eights and the three go into a long tag ending that culminates in a densely harmonic Latin vamp. It is an exciting performance.

To read the whole review, go here.
Sunnyside Records has issued a second volume of performances from Barron’s 1996 Bradley’s engagement and subtitled it, “The Perfect Set,” a claim with which I have no argument. On a solo version of Thelonious Monk’s seldom-heard “Shuffle Boil,” Barron’s harmonic and rhythmic wizardry includes what sound like references to the crippled cadences of stride masters like Donald Lambert and James P. Johnson. The trio follows with a fourteen-minute workout on Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” that took my breath away the first time I heard it…and the second. The title of Barron’s “The Only One” alludes to Monk. The melody line and the improvisation have Thelonious written all over them.
It was not an entirely Monk evening. Barron’s “Twilight Song,” a ballad tinted with Latin accents, and a quarter-hour exploration of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” complete the perfect set. There are few improvisers whom I care to hear play anything for fifteen minutes. Kenny Barron is one of them.
Not incidentally, the beautifully recorded piano on which Barron performs is the Baldwin grand that Paul Desmond willed to Bradley’s. Since the club’s demise, it has been on loan to The Jazz Gallery, a nonprofit club in Lower Manhattan. On page 310 of The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, you will find a picture of Renee Rosnes sitting at it. You didn’t think I’d pass up a chance to plug the book, did you?

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