Kenny Barron/Dave Holland: The Art of Conversation

There are conversations meant solely for the ears of those involved, full of jocular camaraderie and inside references. And then there are those designed to be overheard, where the dialogue is meant to engage and enlighten anyone who is listening in as well as the speakers themselves. With a musical relationship dating back nearly three decades, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland could certainly engage in the former, but The Art of Conversation is a vivid example of the latter. These 10 tracks all showcase the profound mastery of two artists who share an easy rapport and elegantly restrained expressiveness.

The warmth of their collaboration beams through on Holland’s opening, “The Oracle,” where Barron spins buoyant melodic variations around his partner’s buoyant bassline; and on their brisk tandem spin on Charlie Parker’s “Segment,” which contains the disc’s most engaging back-and-forth. But the album features a wide range of moods: the wistful lyricism of Barron’s “Rain,” on which Holland leads with the heartfelt melody; the simmering groove of Holland’s “Dr. Do Right”; and the presciently elegiac “Waltz for K.W.,” a dedication to Kenny Wheeler recorded six months before the trumpet great’s death. Monk, as always, is a touchstone, with a breezy take on “In Walked Bud” and the sharp-angled, Monk-meets-Ellington stroll of Barron’s “The Only One.” Holland’s achingly beautiful “In Your Arms” is an indelible highlight, with both articulating simultaneous melodies with breathless delicacy.