Kenny Barron Trio: Book of Intuition

For some strange reason, the trio that Kenny Barron has been leading for the past decade, featuring bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake, had never cut an album until now. We should all thank the deity of our choice that they finally entered a recording studio, because Book of Intuition is a total delight.

From the first minute of the bossa-nova-ish opening track, “Magic Dance,” previously recorded as “J.J. Dream” with Ron Carter and Lenny White, the high degree of attunement between Barron and his bandmates is obvious. When he lays into a particularly frisky single-note phrase early on in his solo, Blake responds split seconds later with a flourish of ride cymbal and side stick, over which Kitagawa imposes a slight ritard to humorous effect. Next up is “Bud Like,” a blazing Barron performance stoked by Blake’s command of accents and Kitagawa’s dexterous walking. And so it continues through a mix of old and new material, including two pretty selections from Barron’s soundtrack for the 2010 film Another Harvest Moon.

Two standout pieces are by Thelonious Monk, to whom Barron’s had a direct spiritual line for many years. Although he may be a much smoother pianist technically than Monk, the two share a wicked sense of humor. For “Shuffle Boil,” Barron starts off his solo in a surprisingly romantic mood, then delves into deep funk, as if to say he was only kidding with that first bit. Even better is his solo take on “Light Blue,” which alternates fluid Tatum-esque arpeggios with jarring dissonances and ends on a downward glissando that fails perfectly to resolve anything.