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Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Trio featuring Johnathan Blake: Without Deception (Dare2)

A review of the second collaboration from the pianist and bassist

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Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Trio featuring Johnathan Blake, Without Deception
The cover of Without Deception by Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Trio featuring Johnathan Blake

The strong rapport between pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland can be felt all the way through Without Deception. Much like their previous collaboration, 2014’s The Art of Conversation, the music they create is often quiet and subdued. But this understatement pulls the listener closer, into the vastness of Barron’s melodic vocabulary and the drive that Holland gently exerts behind him, before the bassist steps forward to take one of many well-placed solos. With musical chemistry like that, any extra elements might seem unnecessary. Drummer Johnathan Blake, however, fits right in with Barron and Holland. Although he plays a second-line groove on Holland’s “Pass It On” and emphasizes the bossa nova of Barron’s “Porto Alegre,” in many other cases Blake plays around with the beat rather than merely stating it, adding more heft to the music.

Barron contributes four originals to the set. The contoured theme of the title track flows like one alluring statement; “Speed Trap,” on the other hand, gives his partner the chance to walk almost freely. Holland’s other contribution, “I Remember When,” emphasizes the lyrical quality of his writing. The trio also finds opportunity and inspiration in works by Mulgrew Miller (“Second Thoughts”), Duke Ellington (“Warm Valley”), and Barron’s protégé Sumi Tonooka (“Secret Places”). Thelonious Monk’s “Worry Later” downplays some of the composer’s eccentricities during the theme, but Barron sprawls across the keys and bar lines during his solo to acknowledge the source. Albums like Without Deception make clear why Barron and Holland are regarded as masters. Even while keeping things calm in a straight-ahead trio setting, they still pack a punch.

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Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at