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Bill Barron: Compilation

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Bill Barron was an important, largely overlooked transitional figure of the late ’50s and early ’60s, a tenor saxophonist and composer who consolidated advanced jazz-harmonic logic with an eye on the emergent “new thing.” He made his recording debut on Cecil Taylor’s ’59 Love for Sale, sharing the front line with trumpeter Ted Curson, with whom he enjoyed a fruitful partnership into the mid-’60s. Barron’s two ’61 Savoy dates, recently reissued together as Modern Windows Suite, reflect his unique blend of theoretical acumen and improvisational zeal (they are also noteworthy as the first recordings featuring his kid brother, pianist Kenny Barron). The untenable jazz economy of the mid-’60s prompted Barron to attempt expatriation in Europe, where he articulated his theory of a “total composition concept within an improvisational framework,” which provided the foundation for his academic legacy. By the late ’60s, however, he was pursuing his Ph.D. and matriculating in academia. Barron became a pedagogical force during a 12-year tenure at Wesleyan University, culminating in his chairing of the music department from ’84 to ’87. Barron remained a compelling composer and improviser until his death in ’89, as evidenced by Higher Ground (Joken), recorded just months prior to his passing.

The combination of significant artistic innovation, a spotty discography and a trove of private recordings makes Barron the perfect subject for a series of archival recordings. The prospects are all the more promising by the cooperation between Anna Barron, Wesleyan University and Cadence’s Bob Rusch in realizing Compilation.

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