The Jazzcat

The Da Camera Society presents Chamber Music in Historic Sites with Kenny Barron at LACMA West

by on Feb.11, 2007, under News


I have been to LACMA several times for jazz performances. On

any given Friday during the summer, you can always experience three sets of

great music out in an open courtyard filled with many of LA’s lovers of jazz.

But, today the plan was to motor west just one block to discover a venue that I

did not know existed before this performance. LACMA West, located in the upper

level of the former Macy’s department store on the corner of Wilshire and

Fairfax. Today’s acclaimed guest is not one who I see in Los Angeles very often so of course it is

always an honor to welcome the one and only Kenny Barron!


Kenny is not that old although introduced this afternoon as

the greatest living jazz legend. That greatness is always represented in the

mastery of his playing that makes his mind, the music and the piano one

beautifully melodic instrument! The Da Camera Society is an organization that supports

mostly chamber music and they prefer to hold their venues in historic sites

around the city. Their mission is to bring the highest quality chamber music to

their members in environments that the chamber music was originally written

for. Each season they present to their members a few jazz performances always

staying true to their mission of the utmost quality! Kenny Barron certainly

falls right in line when it comes to top notch players. He has performed over

the years in many different configurations but, for this performance he will be

accompanying himself.


Kenny usually does not start off a performance with a ballad

but in honor of a gentleman he met that lived to 100 years old, he proceeded to

play “Memories of You” by Eubie Blake. The members and subscribers of  The Da Camera Society know how to listen and

appreciate a performance.  When listening

to solo piano, silence is necessary to have all of the intricate details and

nuances that a wonderful pianist like Kenny can bring to the music.


“For Heaven’s Sake” was written by a composer that Kenny had

the pleasure of meeting at one of his performances at the Blue Note in New York City. Many

artists have certain fears about performing all alone in front of an audience. There

is a nakedness in the space where the only support is provided by solid notes,

improvisation and implication, creative spontaneous imagination and a

confidence to weave the finest of melodic fabrics. This is not even a challenge

for Kenny.  He is gracious, humorous and

quite a master at conquering  compositions,

no matter how elaborate or simplistic with a warm delightful forward motion and

tone that is as elegant as it is audibly delicious. The selection of music for

this afternoon’s performance are not classical pieces but the approach to them

comes off with some of that sensibility of course mixed with the spirit of jazz

all amounting to fragrant wisps of fresh flowers to the senses.


Miles made the tune “When Lights are Low”, famous with his

version of the wrong bridge.  Kenny

actually discovered this when asked by Benny Carter, the composer, if he knew

the piece. Of course listening to the most popular version for so many years,

Kenny proceeded to perform the piece and Benny told him, when he reached the

bridge, that this is not how he originally wrote the tune. The version Kenny

plays for us features the bridge that was actually intended in the composition.


Listening to solo piano is quite different without the rest

of the swing.  Kenny is so prominent and even

though the bass and drums are a faint part of your imagination, they still

cerebrally occupy some musical space.  I

would imagine that Kenny hears the other 2/3 of the swing as well as he walks

through these classic yet wonderful compositions.


“Lullaby” is an original composition and you can hear some

of the subtle differences in Kenny’s more modern compositions as to their

feeling and the way that they are arranged; still emanating feelings of romance

only in a modern day twentieth century kind of way.  Twentieth because the feelings are derived

from a distinguished old school player who studied the classics in an era that

differs from the sound that you might get from the younger piano players of

today. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” many times sung so beautifully

by vocalists, is played with light and lovely colors as another ballad bestowed

upon this intimate crowd here at LACMA West. “I am confessing that I love you”

with its stridish textures mixed in with a note or two reminiscent of the one

and Theonlyus! The great sound of Kenny Barron is such a treat and we certainly

hope we get to hear much more from Kenny on the West coast!






LeRoy Downs

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