Honored by the National Endowment for the Arts as a 2010 Jazz Master, Kenny Barron has an unmatched ability to mesmerize audiences with his elegant playing, sensitive melodies, and infectious rhythms. The Los Angeles Times named him “one of the top jazz pianists in the world” and Jazz Weekly called him “the most lyrical piano player of our time.”
The Philadelphia native started playing professionally as a teenager with Mel Melvin’s orchestra and Philly Joe Jones. He moved to New York City at 19 and freelanced with Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan, and James Moody. Upon Moody’s recommendation, Dizzy Gillespie hired Barron in 1962 without even hearing him play a note. It was in Gillespie’s band that Barron developed an appreciation for Latin and Caribbean rhythms. After five years with Gillespie, Barron played with Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, and Buddy Rich. In the early 1970s, Barron began working with Yusef Lateef, whom Barron credits as a key influence on his art for improvisation. Encouraged by Lateef to pursue a college education, Barron balanced touring with studies, earning his degree from SUNY Empire State College. By 1973, Barron joined the faculty at Rutgers University as a professor of music. He held this tenure until 2000, mentoring many of today’s young talents, including David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard, and Regina Belle. In 1974, Barron recorded Sunset to Dawn, his first album as a leader for the Muse label—the first of more than 40 recordings as a leader. His duo album with Stan Getz in the late 1980s, People Time, led to the first of 11 Grammy nominations. His 2016 album, Book of Invention, was Barron’s first trio outing in 20 years and marked his first recording with bandmates Kiyoshi Kitagawa and
Barron consistently wins jazz critics’ and readers’ polls, including DownBeat, JazzTimes and Jazziz magazines. Spanish ceramist Lladró honored Barron with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Barron has also received honorary doctorates from SUNY Empire State College and the Berklee College of Music. In 2009, he received the Living Legacy Award from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame. Barron is a seven-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Best Pianist distinction. Borrowed from the title of one of his most popular songs, “Voyage,” Barron opens his vault of rarely performed music that spans 60 years of composing to create a retrospective evening of his prolific artistry. Alongside Kitagawa and Blake, this classic trio explores the magic within some of Barron’s finest unheard melodies as well as more recent nods to some of his favorite inspirations.
PHOTO CREDIT: Carol Friedman Photography