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Kenny Barron: Soft Spoken Here, Sunset to Dawn, Golden Lotus

This two-CD package of classic Muse recordings by Barron and company offers an insightful look into the artist as he developed over a ten-year period. The first, Sunset to Dawn, was released in 1973 and the second, Golden Lotus, was pressed almost a decade later. On Sunset, Barron is on acoustic and electric piano, with Bob Cranshaw on bass, Freddy Waits on drums, and Warren Smith playing the vibes, with both Smith and Richard Landrum contributing percussion. The program has Barron offering a rich program of originals with a ’70s tinge, but nevertheless rich, imaginative, and worth repeated listenings. His opener, “Sunset,” sets the stage for this rather distinctive recording that weaves plenty of magic with mental pictures and succulent melodies. Barron is on electric keyboard here, but he really shines acoustically, as witnessed by his spirited “Delores Street SF,” where he soars, with plenty of octane provided by the brushes of Freddy Waits.

Golden Lotus, vintage 1982, has Barron shunning the electrics, opting now to let his fingers control the touch and nuance of the tunes he’s interpreting. All the tunes are his own, save for a wonderful “Darn that Dream,” where Barron bares his soul with a gorgeous solo rendition of the ballad. And check out the spirited “Cinco,” a Latin cooker that features John Stubblefield on tenor. Also on hand are Steve Nelson on vibes, Buster Williams on bass, and Ben Riley on drums.

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