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CD-DETAILS THE TRAVELER [BARRON, KENNY]

Barron, Kenny

The Traveler [Jazz]


RELEASE: 10.06.2008


LABEL: Emarcy Records

VERTRIEB: Universal


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To understand the calibre of the man, it's enough to contemplate the long list of exceptional musicians who have availed themselves of his services during his career, a career lasting some fifty years: from Chet Baker to Freddie Hubbard via Joe Henderson, Abbey Lincoln, Helen Merrill, Chico Freeman, George Benson, Yusef Lateef, Lee Konitz, James Moody or Dizzy Gillespie. Barron, like such other keyboard-legends as Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, belongs to the aristocracy of the great jazz pianists, musicians who succeeded in taking the accompanist's art to its highest degree of finesse and distinction.

But Kenny Barron wouldn't have become the immense musician he is today if he'd been content to remain in his role as an impeccable sideman, a pianist of faultless elegance ranging over most of the styles which, from the most orthodox be-bop to post-Coltrane modal jazz-not to mention sophisticated "post bop" ‡ la Herbie Hancock-, have marked the history of modern jazz these last few decades. In the company of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, Barron founded the group Sphere, a virtuoso formation dedicated exclusively to the repertoire of Thelonious Monk; he has also enjoyed lengthy partnerships with such musicians as Ron Carter, Bobby Hutcherson, and particularly Stan Getz, whom he "seconded" in the latter's greatly moving swansong from 1987 to 1991. Over the years, Kenny Barron has asserted himself as an extraordinary catalyst for musicians of talent, precisely because he always knew how to serve those he accompanied: imperceptibly, he brought them to deliver themselves, allowing them to explore those emotional zones to which, without him, they would probably have never come close.

These rare qualities of his, inextricably mingled with empathy and soft persuasion, were perhaps never better tested than in the series of remarkable albums that have appeared on Verve under Barron's name since the mid-Nineties. Whether in a classic piano/bass/drums trio-format (with Roy Haynes & Charlie Haden, or Ben Riley & Ray Drummond), or especially more recently, in more original and sophisticated orchestral settings (cf. the delicate atmospheres he developed in his wonderful record "Images" in 2005), in recent years Kenny Barron has continuously added more evidence testifying to his enormous talents as a composer and arranger, establishing more strongly than ever the formal contours of a personal world that is not only firmly anchored in tradition, but has subtle audacity.

"The Traveler", in this sense, merely extends†and deepens the intuitions laid down by his predecessors. It is likely, however, that Kenny Barron never went as far as he does here in expressing a sort of elaborate aesthetic of understatement with a virtuosity that is paradoxical: he reaches the limits of eclipse.

Propelled by a new rhythm-section of extraordinary cohesion-alongside his loyal Japanese bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, the young Cuban drummer Francisco Mela explodes in every bar with inventiveness and elegance -, with "The Traveler" Kenny Barron offers us an album of ballads that are both timeless, so great is the sensation that we are plunging into the heart of the most authentic jazz, and subtly new, in the soft manner in which he slips imperceptibly between one mood and another, in a kind of fade-in fade-out of emotions and languages of the greatest diversity. Accompanied varyingly by soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson (a partner of Chick Corea in the group Origins, a musician of melody and intense lyricism), and by a galaxy of exceptional singers, both male and female.

All of whom cover the whole stylistic range of contemporary vocal jazz (from Greg Tate-suavely resuscitating the crooners' tradition of Nat King Cole and Johnny Hartman-to Gretchen Palato the new diva of New York jazz, whose sensual, softly-treading voice borrows from both the Afro-American tradition and Brazilian music, and Ann Hampton Callaway, a flamboyant stylist at the farthest reaches of jazz and great American pop), throughout this record Kenny Barron retreats behind his prestigious guests, letting his compositional talents and the lyrical dimension of his universe express themselves as perhaps never before. Because the songs Kenny Barron proposes here-except, perhaps, for his solo rendering of Eubie Blake's tune "Memories of You"-are genuine originals, songs of melody and melancholy in the great, magnificently reinvented tradition of the standards.

Rejoining him in the closing chapters of the record is the new guitar-prodigy Lionel Loueke (an extraordinary piano/guitar duo, totally improvised, marks the dramatic arrival of the music in another dimension). With all his senses on the alert, Barron allows the mood of the album to drift unnoticeably towards other, more sensually contemporary territories, thereby providing the finest example of the incredible adaptability that is still the heart of his genius: that unique way of allowing himself to be carried into the universe of the musicians he accompanies-and those accompanying him-while the music, not even for a moment, never ceases to belong to him.

Beneath its apparent eclecticism, "The Traveler", finally, is perhaps the most personal, most accomplished record ever released by Kenny Barron. It is a masterpiece from a poet of ellipses and insinuation, and it brims with elegance and melancholy; without a doubt, in this decidedly lavish world, it opens out onto even more horizons.

(Quelle: Emarcy Records)


FORMAT: CD


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