Week Three: Embodiment of Elegance

Busy, busy week, Fellow Travelers! I’m getting this post to you days later than I intended. Nonetheless, I’m excited to share pix from the outstanding Kenny Barron Trio concert. The weather was just perfect – sunny and warm – as I traveled down to Baltimore on Sunday (the 15th) to see the show. The Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society was closing out its 21st anniversary season and with a full house at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Inspired by the City’s renowned Left Bank Jazz Society, BCJS launched in 1991 to present stellar jazz ensembles in an intimate concert setting.

Pianist extraordinaire. Educator. Composer. Kenny Barron is one of those gifted and accomplished artists with an impressive list of accolades. Among the highlights: NEA Jazz Master (2010), nine Grammy nominations, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Living Legacy Jazz Award (2008), multiple Jazz Journalists Association Best Pianist honors, and numerous jazz readers and critics polls. During his 50+ year career, the native Philadelphian has played with many of the most significant artists in mid-century jazz, including Roy Haynes, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Ron Carter and Yusef Lateef – whom he credits as an influence on his approach to improvisation (the essence of jazz, no?). The 1980’s found him collaborating with Stan Getz and founding the Thelonious Monk-inspired quartet Sphere with Buster Williams, Ben Riley and Charlie Rouse. I could go on and bring you into the 21st century, Fellow Traveler, but his bio says it all.

Fast forward to Sunday’s concert in Baltimore, where he was joined by gifted musicians Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums. Kitagawa has been performing in the States since 1988 with a stellar roster of musicians and was with the Jimmy Heath Quartet for more than 10 years. With a Masters degree from Rutgers University (where Barron was on the faculty from 1973-2000), Blake is the youngster of the group. Music is in his genes, though: the Philadelphia native is the son of jazz violinist John Blake. Altogether, the Trio is the embodiment of elegance. Their repertoire included compositions by Baltimorean Eubie Blake, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Barron originals, and more. Their playing was lyrical, heartfelt and inspiring. At times, it was downright cinematic; not surprising, considering that Barron has written a film score or two. As I write this post, I’m uploading a video to YouTube of Barron taking a solo turn. Give it a listen when you get a chance. Meanwhile, hope you enjoy the slideshow.

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