Kenny Barron Trio at the Village Vanguard 12/20/17 (by Caroline Davis)



PERSONNEL: Kenny Barron (piano), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass) Johnathan Blake (drums)

SET LIST: [last three songs in the set] Softly as in a Morning Sunrise (Romberg/Hammerstein), How Deep is the Ocean (Irving Berlin), Well You Needn’t (Thelonious Monk)

HIGHLIGHTS: The coda explorations on every tune, where the endings melted into new harmonic territory for just a glimpse of time.

We still have the opportunity to see the true legends of jazz keep reaching for new territory on old tunes.

I walked in during Kenny Barron’s last chorus on “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,” which led into open bass and drum solos, each about 5 minutes. Some true explorations – Kitagawa played some captivating melodic material outside of the changes and accompanied himself with some dense chords. In one of my favorite moments, Blake sandwiched a blustery solo between cymbal-sound-wave explorations, cupping his hands over them to create a new effect. The short vamp of Abmaj7 to Dbmaj7 at the end might be something I’ll steal myself…

Barron started his solo “How Deep is the Ocean” in joyous fashion. On the 2nd ending he highlighted the melody by placing triads of Dbmaj-Gbmaj-Bmaj-Emaj over the expected Gm7-C7-Fm7-Bb7.  Barron and Blake often hit exact ends of phrases together, swinging hard but without being aggressive. Barron likes to pull the time back and Blake follows him without compromising the tempo. A hint of a waltz brought them into a coda with some unique changes to end.

“Well You Needn’t” started as a fast, creative escape with no bass. In certain glimpses, Barron would use out-of-time melodies to take the trio to another place. These moments were my joy, and their exits usually landed on their feet. Blake’s solo closed out the tune, with snare rolls that swarmed the whole kit.

I spoke briefly with Barron after the set. He seemed like he might’ve had a cold, but I wanted to pass along a “hello” from a mutual friend – Peter Ind – of whom he immediately spoke so dearly about.

My knowledge of Kenny Barron holds its roots in his solo recordings, but also in those with Sphere, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Yusef Lateef, and James Moody. I’ve barely scratched the surface of his oeuvre, which spans hundreds of recordings, so it was a gift to hear this trio stretch out in a live setting for the first time.

— by Caroline Davis