The Art of Conversation
Kenny Barron established himself as the keyboardist of choice for Stan Getz, Regina Carter and so many others. To this day, there is no piano tone more beautiful than Barron’s, especially when he climbs into the keyboard’s upper register. Even the great Bill Evans developed strident upper octaves during his later years. Barron also has participated in his share of duo performances, the latest of which, the well-named Art of Conversation, pairs him with iconic bassist Dave Holland.
Holland, on the other hand, has more often been immersed in ensembles, including big bands, octets, quintets, quartets and trios. So, this beautifully recorded duo album, on which Holland solos at length, is long overdue. A set of 10 songs — three by Barron and four by Holland — properly showcases Holland’s extreme virtuosity, melodicism and intuitive sense. His solo-bass album from 1993, Ones All, may be the last instance of as many Holland features on one disc.
Charlie Parker’s “Segment” and Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” swing hard at medium-up tempo, while the Strayhorn/Ellington/Latouche ballad “Daydream” receives a lithe and colorful interpretation. Disparate Latin grooves permeate Holland’s “The Oracle,” “Dr. Do Right,” and Barron’s “Seascape.” Barron’s tribute to Monk, “The Only One,” is filled with Monkish knuckle chords and swings from the rafters, while Holland’s metronomic walking four comps true melodies.
Ballads such as Barron’s “Rain,” which features Holland’s beautiful vibrato on the melody, and Holland’s “Waltz for Wheeler” are as graceful and poignant as “Daydream.” Barron and Holland are top-shelf interpreters and improvisers with compositions that rival the finest jazz oeuvres. Listeners well may hope for their artful conversations to continue on future recordings. —James Rozzi