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Barron and Holland are as good as it gets

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Monday April 29, 2013

From The Washington Post

Kenny Barron and Dave Holland are as good as it gets, but it’s discipline that defines them
By Michael J. West

Not every duet is an “intimate” one. Pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland, two of the finest musicians alive — Barron is an NEA Jazz Master; Holland should be one — have worked together for four decades. But there was little intimacy displayed Saturday night at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater, no knowing, across-the-stage-and-years glances. They focused on their instruments, and the music emanating from that focus was profound and masterly.

Indeed, as if to prove their prowess, the two spent much of the set tying their musical relationship into knots. The opening “Spiral,” one of Barron’s greatest compositions, found Holland as the melodist, his clipped tone resonating against Barron’s dense, often challenging chords. They did something similar with Holland’s overcast ballad “In Your Arms,” but in a tug-of-war context: Barron controlled the melody for most of the tune, but Holland’s walking bass was so assured that it often took the helm without even trying, dragging the audience’s ear back and forth between them.

At the same time, they accentuated each other’s strengths. There was a remarkable rhythmic chemistry on Barron’s carefree “Calypso,” intuitively landing fresh accents together while keeping the Caribbean lilt. Barron’s piano solo, based in the tune’s rhythmic devices, had a whiff of cocktail-jazz to it. But not inappropriately, as Holland understood; when his turn came, he took the same path, rhythmic motifs and all.

To read the full review click here