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Bill Barron: Higher Ground

Like Alan Shorter, Tommy Turrentine and others, Bill Barron suffered from neglected brother syndrome. Even the relatively few readers who know his fine work in the ’60s with Ted Curson may not know that this, his swan song, was recorded ten years ago. Barron was not a giant, but he certainly was his own man. Sixteen years older than brother Kenny, he was about the same age as two other Philadelphia tenors, John Coltrane and Benny Golson. At times you can hear echoes of these men’s work, and at others he sounds a little like Clifford Jordan or Booker Ervin. His style doesn’t leap out at you, but he has original ideas and subtle phrasing, especially on numbers like “I Thought About You”. The program is a nice mix of standards and originals, the style mainstream-modern, leaning towards the kinds of harmonic structures that prevailed after modal and lydian thinking became preeminent. Anything but Kenny’s engaging piano would be a surprise, front line partner Eddie Henderson is in great form, achieving a brilliant sound even when tightly muted, and Rufus Reid and Ben Riley contribute all you would expect from such distinguished veterans.

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