From the '60s through the '80s, pianist Kenny Barron was one of the most sought-after sidemen in jazz, playing with Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Yusef Lateef, and Ron Carter, along with being a co-founder of the group Sphere, dedicated to performing the music of Thelonious Monk. Since the early '70s, Barron has put out several albums as leader. However, a series of live dates recorded with Stan Getz for four years up until the tenor's death in '91 brought Barron the widest recognition. For the past fifteen years, he has been recognized by fans and critics alike as one of the greatest living jazz pianists. The Perfect Set
, with two originals, two Monk tunes, and one standard, should further cement his reputation. Recorded at the defunct club Bradley's in Greenwich Village, a favorite of New York pianists because of the excellent grand piano willed to the club by Paul Desmond, The Perfect Set
is just that.
After a brief introduction, the trio digs into a fifteen-minute version of "You Don't Know What Love Is." Barron lends an elegant and graceful air to a tune performed by countless numerous times. The trio take a leisurely stroll through the song, continually paying homage to its rich melodic content along the way. On the seldom-heard Monk tune "Shuffle Boil," Barron gives a presentation to the audience of the charm of classic solo Harlem stride piano. The trio ends the set with a romp through the Monk classic "Well, You Needn't."
These marvelous sixty minutes of music are like listening to an intimate conversation among long-time friends who are totally respectful of one another's views. This performance was indeed a "perfect set" and a showcase for true "smooth jazz."