Gig review – Kenny Barron trio, Ronnie Scott’s, 29 February 2016

This gig held two firsts for me: my first time at London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club; the other, the first time I’d seen the equally legendary Kenny Barron.

Barron, now 72, hails out of Philadelphia and is a highly regarded pianist, having been sideman to many jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter and Stan Getz.  In fact, one of my favourite albums is ‘People Time’, a live, double-album featuring Getz and Barron in duo.  Barron is of course a leader in his own right and it was in this guise that he’s recently been touring, as the leader of the Kenny Barron trio, promoting his new album, Book of Intuition.

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(Photo by Philippe Levy-Stab)

The album is a straight-ahead affair, including mostly Barron originals spanning straight-ahead swing, latin, ballads.  The album also features tunes penned by Charlie Haden and Thelonious Monk.  As one would expect with a Kenny Barron album, the playing is impeccable and he’s ably supported by Kiyoshi Kitagawa on double bass and Johnathan Blake on drums.  However, while enjoying the album, for my tastes it’s too polished, too straight and I was hoping that the live experience would be a slightly different affair.

Moving to the gig itself, ‘Ronnie’s’ was a perfect venue for the pianist and punter alike, achieving the right balance between the size of the venue and the intimacy of the performance.  As a pianist myself, it’s always a bonus to be seated so you can see the pianist’ hands, as if by osmosis one could capture some of the magic in those figures!  Both sets featured tunes from the new album and only two other tunes, the standard ‘I can hear a rhapsody’, and the closer to the gig, Barron’s own ‘Calypso’.  The gig featured virtuoso performances from the trio but didn’t fire my appreciation as much as I would have liked.  The best analogy I can make is to cars.  The trio was like a Rolls Royce; sophisticated, smooth and able to reach top speeds without breaking a sweat.  You just wished that the Rolls Royce would go off-road for a bit.  Though I wouldn’t expect this one to do 360’s or the ‘doughnut‘!