Written by Mark Schramm from WBGO-FM
On June 9, Kenny Barron turns 70 — and he’s celebrating in style. The pianist, composer and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master has booked a week-long residency with his quartet at the Village Vanguard in New York and a live WBGO/NPR webcast on June 5.
Kenny Barron was born in North Philadelphia — as he is careful to point out — on June 9, 1943. Coming up, he played with his brother, the tenor saxophonist Bill Barron, and in local groups. At 19, he got his big break and joined trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie‘s band. Barron’s career took off, and soon he recorded with a host of jazz giants, including Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson. People Time with Stan Getz and Barron was the tenor saxophonist’s last album — and a great one.
Barron has released more than 40 albums as a leader. He’s also been a tireless jazz educator, for 28 years at Rutgers University, followed by Manhattan School of Music and the Julliard School in New York. In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master.
Barron first hooked up with Dave Holland at a recording session for Barron’s 1985 album Scratch. As Barron says, “We met at a record date of mine. There were no rehearsals; we just played. I think that record won an award in Paris.” They sensed they had a special rapport, but it has taken time for these two busy bandleaders to fully explore playing as a duo.
We follow their set from the Kennedy Center with Kenny Barron solo from the 2012 Caramoor Jazz Festival. Host Dee Dee Bridgewater herself was performing at Caramoor that evening, and remembers the image of all the other pianists at the festival, in the wings watching Barron weave his magic. One more memory: It was pouring. You’ll hear the rain on the roof in Surround Sound.
Duo Set List
- “The Oracle” (Holland)
- “Solar” (Miles Davis)
- “Calypso” (Barron)
- “In Walked Bud” (Thelonious Monk)
Solo Set List
- “Up Jumped Spring” (Freddie Hubbard)
- “Memories Of You” (Eubie Blake)
Kenny Barron solo at the 2012 Caramoor Jazz Festival in Katonah, N.Y., was produced by Jim Luce with Caramoor managing director Paul Rosenbloom. Jason Moran is the Artistic Director for Jazz at the Kennedy Center. Thanks to Kevin Struthers, Director of Jazz, coordinator Jean Thill and recording engineer Greg Hartman. Surround Sound mixer and technical director Duke Markos.