Kenny Barron & Brazilian Music
It is true that Kenny Barron is among the top echelon of modern jazz pianists. He was Stan Getz's last pianist, and the music they produced (People Time and The Lost Sessions: Bossas and Ballads) is among Getz's finest. He lead the band Sphere, a brilliant group interpreting and building on the music of Thelonius Sphere Monk (hence, the name). He came up playing With Dizzy Gillespie and Yusef Lateef. Yet, many of his efforts as leader seem to fall short, to lack something. Except when he places himself in a somewhat alien context, as on Swamp Sally, his brilliant disc with Mino Cinelu (country/blues/jazz), and here, matched with Trio da Paz (Brazilian). These encounters, where he is playing in the presence of a deeply established world jazz vibe, bring out the very best in him and enable his epic jazz pianism to shine brightest. Trio da Paz benefits as well. Having a world class musician playing piano (an instrument not part of the trio) nudges them into a greater freedom of expression and rhythmic drive than I've heard from them before. Add Valtinho on percussion and Anne Drummond of flute, and you have a much richer sound signature than usual for a Trio da Paz disc.
The electricity sparks from the very first number, "Zumbi,"
a driving composition by Barron (5 of 8 are his, the rest, one each from the
Trio). There's a very attractive controlled wildness here, reminiscent of some
of Egberto Gismonti's early period music, just after he emerged from three years
of studing the aboriginal music of Northern Brazil. That vibe continues with
"Paraty," a number from bassist Nilson Matta that has almost become a Brazilian
jazz standard and which features an astounding solo from Romero Lubambo, surely
the reigning Brazilian guitar champ, as well as a very attractive solo from
Barron. "Bachiao," from the pen of Lubambo, has a distinct Villa Lobos feel, and
brings out perhaps the leader's finest piano work; indeed Barron's and Lumbabo's
breakneck melodic doubling amazes. Drummond also knocks off a quite remarkable
flute solo on this number. But my favorite is drummer Duduka
da Fonseca's "Dona Maria," also featured on his brilliant disc "Samba Jazz
Fantasia," bursting with complex rhythms and an eminently hummable melody. Da
Fonseca's drum solo is pure brilliance--tasty, alive with energy, and smartly
succinct. Barron has always struck me as an accomplished ballad player, and he
confirms that view by his performances here. All in all, a great disc, one of
the finest world jazz performances I've ever heard. Not to be missed.
--an Amazon reviewer