Spirit Song

Spirit Song

by Kenny Barron



Among the many lessons Kenny Barron learned during the four-year tenure (1961-65) with Dizzy Gillespie that kicked off his career as a professional improviser was the importance of a global aesthetic. On SPIRIT SONG, the 57-year-old pianist -- recently elected tops on his instrument in the I>Downbeat Critics Poll -- weaves a sophisticated 64-minute tonal tapestry from numerous strands he's addressed during 40 years as a professional improviser. A top-shelf cast, all in prime form, join Barron on his joyous journey. Along with bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Hart, the core quintet includes trumpeter Eddie Henderson, a key member of Barron's ensembles since the mid-'80s, and David Sanchez on tenor saxophone; violinist Regina Carter and guitarist Russell Malone augment the ensembles on various selections.
Barron's explored the rhythms and melodies of Brazil since his early '70s Muse recordings; here he offers "Um Beijo," enlivened by Carter's rhapsodic sound, and "Sonia Braga," where Henderson -- who plays with blue-flame elegance throughout -- uncorks a sensuous declamation evoking the actress who inspired the song. A reharmonized, gorgeously voiced "Passion Flower" finds Henderson and Carter stating the iconic Billy Strayhorn melody before a flowing piano statement, and intense solos by Henderson, Sanchez, and Carter. Among SPIRIT SONG's other highpoints are the jostling duets between Barron and Russell Malone's blues-drenched acoustic guitar on the call-and-response-based title track, Malone's nasty solo on "The Wizard," a ferocious Barron blues with a stop-time section in the melody; and the closing "And Then Again," where Malone and the pianist engage in a magically empathetic dialogue that sounds like it could have gone double its 4:35 length with no diminution in interest.
Barron blends with the ensemble so seamlessly that you might overlook his second-to-none chops and instantly recognizable touch and phrasing. Consider his horn-like solos on "The Question Is" or "Cook's Bay," and the elemental fire he conjures in duo with Sanchez on McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance." Like the rest of SPIRIT SONG, the performances denote an artist completely comfortable in his own skin, serenely facing future challenges.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/08/2000
Label: Polygram Records
UPC: 0731454318020
catalogNumber: 543180

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