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Kenny Barron: Icon-in-Residence

At 71, representing the pinnacle of the jazz-piano tradition

Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron performs at the 2014 Playboy Jazz Festival
Kenny Barron (photo courtesy of the artist)
Kenny Barron at the Village Vanguard in 2013
Kenny Barron (l.) with Dave Holland

“An icon.” I’ve just used the word to describe 71-year-old pianist Kenny Barron, and as we get up from a dimly lit but bustling happy hour in Midtown Manhattan, he’s not buying it for a second. In fact he scoffs at it, then drapes a tan overcoat over his rotund frame for the walk back to Birdland, where he’s playing out the week in a duo with Dave Holland. It’s October, about a week after the release of The Art of Conversation, the pair’s album for the recently revived Impulse! label.

His scoff isn’t one of contempt but amusement. Calling Barron an “icon” implies that he’s a celebrity, a household name and face-and in the 2010s such jazz icons are either dead or on TV. “I’m not that big a deal,” he says.

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