Barron Soars in Beverly Hills


Pianist Kenny Barron (left) bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake perform at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills on April 16.

(Photo: Bob Barry)

Kenny Barron’s April 16 concert at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills served as a showcase for his trio album Book Of Intuition (Impulse!), released March 4. Joining him onstage were the same bandmates who appear on the album: bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake.

Barron began the show by saying, “We’ve been together for 10 years and this CD, Book Of Intuition, is our first as a group.” Then the trio launched into a track from the album, the Thelonious Monk tune “Shuffle Boil,” with Barron delivering very Monkish rhythm changes and breaks, Blake offering subtle coloration on snares and Kitagawa’s bass anchoring the proceedings.

Another track from the album—Barron’s original composition “Magic Dance”—began with a quiet solo piano intro before morphing into a danceable samba reminiscent of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The program featured versions of two other tunes from the new disc, “Nightfall” (composed by the late Charlie Haden) and “Bud Like,” a Barron original penned in honor of one of his personal heroes, pianist and DownBeat Hall of Fame member Bud Powell (1924–’66).

Barron closed the show with another tribute: “Song For Abdullah,” his original composition written in honor of South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. (Barron included the tune on his 1985 album Scratch and his 2004 disc Images.) The version here at the Annenberg was a lush, beautiful display of solo piano, concluding the program with a solemn mood.

Following the concert, I briefly spoke with Barron about the beginning of his professional career. On Yusef Lateef’s 1960 album The Centaur And The Phoenix the reedist included one of Barron’s compositions, “Revelation,” and Barron’s arrangement of the Sammy Fain/Irving Kahal song “Ev’ry Day (I Fall In Love).” Barron was still a teenager at the time.

Barron reflected, “I was graduating [high school] and Yusef came and asked me to write it. Yusef called me to come to Detroit to play with him at the club called The Minor Key, and when we got finished he said, ‘We got a record date coming up, so I want you to write some music.’ He gave me one song, the ballad ‘Ev’ry Day (I Fall In Love),’ and he wanted me to arrange it. He said, ‘I want you to write another one.’ So I wrote ‘Revelation.’”

More than half a century later, Barron is still writing original music that touches listeners’ souls. DB

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