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Interviews

Kenny Barron

By Published: November 14, 2003
AAJ: Is there a lot of experimental playing going on in the schools now?

KB: Unfortunately, that's not one of the things. Students may be doing that on their own, but it's not really being looked at in education, unfortunately. But I think students are encouraged to do that on their own. It actually depends on the school, the environment. A lot of the schools tend to be very big band oriented, so there isn't that much material that you're going to find. That's more a concept about playing than about writing. There are people who write that way, but for me it's more about playing, a way of expressing.... It has to have some reason for it to be. If you listen to Trane's latest stuff before he passed—I didn't know him when he was young, but my brother knew him, and, you know, Trane used to play gigs where he'd "walk the bar" - Rhythm and Blues gigs - so, I mean, he came from that. He developed that, and you can trace that development. When you develop a certain way, the music has more validity than just buying a horn and getting a sound and then just going for broke - just screaming and squawking, that's not avant-garde music, that's just noise. But if you reach a certain level, or if you develop, then the music has more validity - and you can hear the difference.

AAJ: You've done so many different records, and I wanted to ask you about your varied recordings - your solo piano records, your Brazilian records...

KB: That's one of the things I like: different kinds of music. And Brazilian music I happen to really love. I've always liked the spirit of the music, and the way Brazilian composers utilize chords and the movemen—it's something that I especially love. And then getting hooked up with the guys who were on that last recording - Canta Brasil is what it's called - so there are four Brazilian guys on that recording and they have a different feeling than, say, a jazz musician playing Brazilian music. It was just really incredible to play with those guys, and have a chance to go to Brazil with them. We're actually playing next week - we're going to Austria to play for three days. It's just so much fun. And I try to find different things to do -ideas. For example, I met this guy who plays kora - it's an African instrument—and I'm trying to figure out something we can do together. It's a different sound. I like the sound of sitar - or koto - so there's all different sounds, in terms of colors, to explore.

AAJ: It sounds like you are juggling a lot of different ensembles right now. How does that work for you?

KB: It's fun! I love it. I call it "modular units". Again, that's what makes it exciting. The more different situations you're involved in, the more you grow. If you have one situation you're involved in, the tendency - and I've noticed that in myself - is to become very relaxed and you start to feel safe and comfortable, so you won't go beyond a certain level, because there's nothing to push you, you just do what you can do, or you do what you know how to do.


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