Kenny Barron Trio, Book of Intuition

Kenny Barron's Book of Intuition (on the revived Impulse! label) is an infectiously joyous album, bursting with riffs and vamps and sparkling chords over head-swaying melodies, some infused with a Latin tinge, others crooning with lyrical balladry, all of them propelled by a forceful forward motion, whatever the tempo.

At 72, Barron is a master pianist of unflagging energy who has always guided his own path: virtuosic without making a show of it, romantic but never sentimental, steel-fingered precise while at the same time swinging and supple.

This is his first trio album in 20 years (since Wanton Spirit, with Charlie Haden and Roy Haynes) and his first album ever with the trio—Kiyoshi Kitigawa on bass and Jonathan Blake on drums—that he's been leading in jazz clubs for the past decade.

My favorite Barron albums are his duet sessions: People Time with Stan Getz, Night and the City with Charlie Haden, The Art of Conversation with Dave Holland. He has such wide dexterity—and his grasp of harmony is total—that he can trade parts in a snap and fill in whatever gaps are left open. But the trio format and especially this working trio—Kitagawa treading the bass line, Blake klook-a-mopping the polyrhythms—leave him wide vistas of space to stretch. There's something of Ahmad Jamal's classic trio in their sound, with Blake particularly reminiscent of Vernel Fournier's percussive filigrees.

Seven of the album's 10 tracks are Barron compositions, all of them fetching. One, the final track, "Nightfall," is one of Charlie Haden's most lovely pieces. Two are by Monk—"Shuffle Boil" and "Light Blue"—and, though appealing, they're the weak links: Barron may lack the native dissonance to delve deep into Monk (just as Ella Fitzgerald was just too happy to sing the blues). Otherwise, this is a treasure.

The session—recorded and mixed by Jay Newland at Avatar Studios, mastered by Mark Wilder—has a warm, crisp sound with plenty of air and thump, though the drums are a little bit two-dimensional.

dalethorn's picture

The descriptions of bouncy, bubbly, infectious etc., and wide vistas to stretch are apt, based on sampling these tracks on iTunes. I think I'll check out the older albums instead.

Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing- FK.
this new disc from KB closely complements his Wanton Spirit disc.