Jazz Icon Kenny Barron Showcases Diverse Talent in SFJAZZ Residency

Published January 30, 2024

Jazz aficionados are in for a treat as the legendary pianist Kenny Barron takes the stage for a multi-faceted residency at SFJAZZ Center. At the age of 80, Barron demonstrates the breadth of his extensive six-decade career with a series of four unique performances, each offering a different glimpse into the versatility of this master musician.

Kenny Barron's Musical Eclecticism

Known for embracing a wide array of musical styles, from Brazilian jazz to Afro-Caribbean influences, Barron himself admits to an eclectic taste that is perfectly suited to jazz's inclusive spirit. His residence at the SFJAZZ Center, where he serves as an artistic director, reflects this diversity. The showcase from February 1 to 4 at the Miner Auditorium reveals Barron in various setups that he has excelled in over the years.

An Eloquent Trio and a Dynamic Quintet

The opening night features Barron in a trio format, a group that has been finely tuned over nearly twenty years, with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and drummer Johnathan Blake, who will also debut as a leader at the SFJAZZ Center soon. The following evening, Barron expands this trio into a quintet by welcoming SFJAZZ Collective trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens, adding their fiery creativity to the mix.

Brazilian Explorations and Improvisational Journeys

On the third night, Barron delves into the rich world of Brazilian jazz, surrounded by a talented ensemble including flute virtuoso Anne Drummond and several other accomplished musicians who have contributed to Barron's Brazilian-themed recordings. The residency culminates with an open-ended evening of improvisation featuring John Patitucci on bass, drummer Lesley Mok, trombonist Kalia Vandever, and vocalist/multi-string player Jen Shyu, showcasing Barron's roots in the 1960s avant-garde and his open-minded approach to music-making.

A Career Rooted in Experimentation and Collaboration

Barron's formative years in Philadelphia's robust jazz scene exposed him to a variety of styles and influences, setting the stage for a career built on flexibility and innovation. After moving to New York at 18, he quickly became one of the most sought-after accompanists, playing with jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie. The richness of his early experiences and partnerships continues to resonate, as seen in his current collaborations, such as with drummer Johnathan Blake, who credits his long-standing role in Barron's trio to both talent and devotion to Barron's musical vision.

jazz, piano, legend