May 1997

Harvey Weinapel
Ambrosia, the Music of Kenny Barron
Big Round Records

Gifted Bay Area saxophonist Weinapel has embarked on an unexpected and enriching project for his second album as a leader. Weinapel uses as an expressive platform the compositions of pianist Kenny Barron, that undersung jazz hero who has just started getting his recognition due. As it turns out, Weinapel's stylistic voice on the horn-romantic yet restlessly inventive-is well-suited to Barron's kindred writing style, especially on the first half of the album, devoted to arrangements by Jeff Beal for the Metropole Orchestra. Weinapel weaves handily in and out of sophisticated voicings , tapping into the fiery, questioning spirit of "Lunacy" and the bittersweetness of "Lullabye." The second half of the project is humbler in scale and lighter in spirit, with a combo playing Brazilian-inflected Barron tunes. Accordionist Rich Kuhns adds his unorthodox timbre to "Sambao," and, to close, Weinapel sails out on the looping harmonic structure of "If and When," overdubbing alto, tenor and soprano saxes. Too often, tributes to composers wait until after said composer's death: Kenny Barron is alive and very well, thank you, and Weinapel's homage is right on time.

Originally published in May 1997
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