In the Middle East, "tarab," a state of musical and spiritual ecstasy, is produced and maintained when a creative feedback loop is established between performers and listeners. The transformation is dependent not only on the skilled artisans, but on the environment created by the musically initiated audience. In jazz, people and place are equally important: Bradley's, in the Village, was one such place, where after-hours aficionados came to hear the best piano trio jazz that New York had to offer. The Perfect Set: Live at Bradley's II
captures three masterful musicians and one enthusiastic audience in mutual jazz worship.
Pianist Kenny Barron, a conduit for many jazz spirits, most notably Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, and Art Tatum, preserves his own unique identity in spite of these influences; an effortless virtuoso, he combines featherlight grace with prodigious technical prowess. Drummer Ben Riley and bassist Ray Drummond match Barron's artistry, creating a trio sound that is well-oiled yet unspoiled, each member continually daring the others to peek around the next musical corner, while the ambiance of Bradley's and the attunement of the crowd heighten and enhance this atmosphere of expectation and exploration.
Highlights of the set include Barron's beautiful unaccompanied intros to "You Don't Know What Love Is and "Twilight, the extended bass-drum exchanges on "You Don't Know, the piano-drum interplay on "The Only One and "Well You Needn't, and Riley's swinging solo on "The Only One. Barron is an improvisational encyclopedia of tremolos, chord clusters, cascading runs, rhythmic/melodic motifs, and empathetic interplay with his partners in groove.
And, behind it all: the ears, the crowd, the witnesses. Bradley Cunningham, listener extraordinaire, is gone. Bradley's, shrine of the late-night jazz tarab, is gone. But the musicians and their audience survive, listening, improvising, and worshiping.