Kenny Barron was honored as an NEA Jazz Master on January 12, 2010, and it was a recognition that was due. Since entering the jazz scene in the early '60s, he has made his mark as a sideman (especially with Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz), solo pianist, leader, and composer. These 2009 sessions pair him with frequent collaborator Ben Riley and fellow veteran George Mraz on bass. While most of the focus is on familiar standards, the opener is Barron's slinky "Minor Blues," in which Barron and Mraz both shine backed by Riley's brushwork, though the drummer switches to sticks for his breaks. The leader's jaunty take of "Emily" and driving treatment of "How Deep Is the Ocean?" sizzle. His richly textured setting of "Too Late Now" doesn't require its lyrics to get across the mood of the song, while his breezy Latin arrangement of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain" casts this ballad in a new light. This is yet another fine example of Kenny Barron's superb chops in a small-group setting.
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