Live at Bradley's
Bradley's, the lamented Greenwich Village headquarters of jazz pianists, lives on in this 1996 set by pianist Kenny Barron's trio. Barron, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley stretch out in performances of five pieces captured with admirable fidelity by engineer Jim Anderson. Unaccompanied, Barron evokes Art Tatum and the song's era in his opening chorus of "Everybody Loves My Baby, but My Baby Don't Love Nobody but Me," then the trio digs into a 15-minute update of the tune's considerable possibilities. Drummond solos at length, and the closely placed microphone emphasizes his sound, which is both expansive and crisp. Barron and Riley engage in an exchange of witty four-bar phrases that underlines Riley's ability to maintain drive using brushes at low volume.
Barron takes "Solar" at a fast clip that does nothing to suppress his development of original melodic ideas or inventiveness in voicings. There's not a cliche to be heard. Drummond aces another solo, Riley and Barron exchange eights and the three go into a long tag ending that culminates in a densely harmonic Latin vamp. It is an exciting performance. "Blue Moon" is relaxed and reflective, full of Barron's fleet single-note lines. The mood of contemplation continues with "Alter Ego," a piece by pianist James Williams that recalls some of the compositions of Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage period. It lends itself to Barron's impressionism and a building rhythmic intensity engendered by the quiet insistence of Riley's four-beat sticks on cymbals and rims. The album closes with Eddie Heywood's "Canadian Sunset," a chestnut of the piano repertory into which Barron's trio breathes bebop life.
Barron's long association with Verve is at an end. If he is beginning a new one with Sunnyside, this CD is a good start.