Kenny Barron

Spirit Song

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Many of pianist Barron's recordings have been done with one set lineup. Though he has a core band of bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Billy Hart, tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, the leader changes up the music quite a bit on this diversely adorned recording of two standards and eight originals. There are two duet tracks -- one with guitarist Russell Malone, the other with Sanchez. "And Then Again" is a 12-bar bopper on which Malone cops stairstep refrains from "Misterioso." McCoy Tyner's kinetic "Passion Dance" features piano and tenor in a wonderful terpsichore. Barron's his own man as an improviser. Brazilian moments always crop up on his recordings; this album sports a long, languid, samba-tinged take on Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower," as well as the breezy melody of "Cook's Bay," which features a tick-tock samba similar to Jobim's "Waters of March." These group efforts are joined by the Art Blakey-like "The Pelican," one of Barron's best writing jobs. In stark contrast is the funky, dark modal juggernaut "The Wizard," with banged-up, half-crazed chords from Malone, and the grooving Afro-Cuban minimalism of the title cut. The rhapsodic "Passion Flower" and "Um Beijo" both feature violinist Regina Carter. Barron's romantic notions are best displayed on the delicate, trumpet-fired bossa ballad "Sonja Braga" and serene waltz "The Question Is...." Barron has amassed a formidable number of high-quality recordings, but this ranks right up there near the top.

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