Beginning in 2012, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland formed a duo partnership that found them performing live all around the world. The duo's 2014 studio album, The Art of Conversation, showcases this collaboration with a simple, beautifully understated mix of standards and original compositions. Journeyman solo artists and bandleaders in their own right, both Barron and Holland are virtuoso musicians who've made their mark playing disparate, if compatible, styles of jazz. On one hand, Barron, with his impeccable technique and lyrical taste, is an influential master of straight-ahead post-bop jazz. On the other hand, Holland, also blessed with imposing technique, has moved with deft ease between avant-garde jazz, athletic post-bop, and straight-ahead sessions. What they share is a thoughtful, measured precision and attention to detail, as well as empathetic musical ears that allow for deep musical interplay. All of which is on display here. There's a palpable sense on The Art of Conversation that both Barron and Holland have a deep respect for songs and the composer's original intent. However, that doesn't mean they don't take such songs as Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud" and Billy Strayhorn's "Daydream" and make them their own. This balance between respecting the composer and allowing for individual interpretation is especially highlighted on a handful of their own original compositions, including Barron's languid and elegiac "Rain," on which Holland takes the melody, and Holland's similarly dreamlike ballad "In Your Arms," on which Barron takes the helm. Ultimately, it's this kind of sympathetic collaboration, mutual respect, and creative synergy that makes The Art of Conversation such a joy to listen to.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar