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Kenny Barron: The Traveler

Florence Wetzel By

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The Traveler is a delicious offering of ten beautiful songs by pianist Kenny Barron. Eight of the tunes were composed by Barron, and each one is brimming with his famous lyricism. Most of the songs feature solid underpinning by Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums), and in addition the CD features a variety of guests who add their own unique voices.

Soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, a superb player with an intimate, conversational tone, appears on three tunes. He joins the trio for the opening title track, a gentle, emotive song with a touch of melancholy. It's easy to see why Wilson resonates with Barron; both play with effortless ease and utter lack of pretension. On "Speed Trap" the pace is fast, as promised by the title; Barron presses the gas and the band cooks along happily. Wilson also shines on "Illusion," a richly poignant ballad centered upon Wilson's tender, contemplative sax.

Another impressive contributor is guitarist Lionel Loueke, who joins in on three tunes. Loueke pairs with Barron on the appropriately titled "Duet," an engaging song that finds Barron in a playful mood and showcases Loueke's lyrical agility. "Calypso" is a lively song with a delightful bounce and fine lines by Loueke, and the haunting "Phantom" includes Loueke's impressive vocals.

Other treats include "Um Beijo," which features vocals by the eminent Grady Tate, as well as the album closer, a Barron solo on Eubie Blake's "Meaning of You." The latter is pure Barron, his playing resonating elegant warmth that expresses the melody's heart. Altogether The Traveler is a fresh, energetic album that showcases Barron and his formidable talents, but also points the spotlight on his talented collaborators.

Track Listing: The Traveler; Clouds; Speed Trap; Um Beijo; The First Year; Illusion; Duet; Phantoms; Calypso; Memories Of You.

Personnel: Kenny Barron: piano; Kiyoshi Kitagawa: bass; Francisco Mela: drums; Steve Wilson: soprano sax (1, 3, 6); Lionel Louek

Title: The Traveler | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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