This particular CD is an exception to these rules: This is a straight reissue of a live album, recorded in 1990 in Zagreb, Croatia. Also, Drew is accompanied by George Mraz on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The fact that the rhythm section inspired Drew on stage is apparent from the burning-hot opening track "Autumn Leaves." This is a very exciting live album!
To commemmorate the 20th anniversary of Drew's passing, a very special series was launched in Japan in 2013, with a release of previously unpublished materials recorded for the two labels between 1972 and 1992. Most of them are alternate takes and takes that did not make onto the original albums released in this period. Danish super-bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen held the bass chair throughout, and the drummer is either Ed Thigpen, a fellow American expat who had settled in Copenhagen, or Alvin Queen.
This particular CD is a straight reissue of an out-of-print live album called Piano Night, recorded in Switzerland in 1992, less than 15 months before Drew's passing at age 64. The drum chair was occupied by Alvin Queen. The performance in this exciting live album is very strong, and the sound quality, especially of the piano, is also excellent.
Kenny Barron was honored as an NEA Jazz Master on January 12, 2010, and it was a recognition that was due. Since entering the jazz scene in the early '60s, he has made his mark as a sideman (especially with Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz), solo pianist, leader, and composer. These 2009 sessions pair him with frequent collaborator Ben Riley and fellow veteran George Mraz on bass.
Pianist Kenny Drew is accompanied by fellow expatriate drummer Ed Thigpen and the talented young bassist Mads Vinding on these 1981 sessions. The leader continued to grow as a player during his years living in Europe, evolving from a strong bop pianist into something more. He opens "Alone Together" with a tense, evocative solo before returning to familiar territory as the rhythm section joins him. His sprightly, brisk take of "How Are Things in Glocca Mora" is a nice change from the usual arrangements, with Vinding's walking bass prominent in the mix. The leader's two originals include the snappy "Evening in the Park" and the lush, intimate ballad "Your Soft Eyes." This rewarding CD seems to have been deleted from Soul Note's catalog, so it is well worth tracking down.
The talented, if underrated bebop pianist Kenny Drew spent his last few decades living in Scandinavia after emigrating from the U.S. in 1961. This 1996 CD has previously unreleased material recorded by the Danish Broadcast Corporation featuring Drew at three different periods in time. There are four tunes apiece of Drew in duets with bassist Niels Pedersen in 1966, playing unaccompanied solos in 1978, and duets with bassist Bo Stief in 1983. All dozen numbers (seven jazz standards, a Scandinavian folk song, an obscurity and two Drew originals, including two versions of "Blues for Nils") are quite rewarding. The music is straight-ahead, often harmonically sophisticated, swinging and occasionally unpredictable. An excellent sampling of Kenny Drew's talents.
Kenny Barron, the 72-year-old Philadelphia-born virtuoso, is the kind of jazz pianist whose resources are familiar and much-covered by mainstream swing players, but whose joyfully extravagant execution is a rarity today. That quality transforms this trio set from being a canter through a smooth-jazzy assortment of soft ballads, Latin smoochers and glossy swing. Barron has absorbed an encyclopaedia of jazz methods from a life on the road with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz, and it pours out in these tracks. Magic Dance, with its glistening chords and Latin-jazz tick, sounds smooth at first but unleashes an impulsive torrent. Ballads such as In the Slow Lane display his impeccably light touch and Thelonious Monk’s Shuffle Boil isn’t Monkishly lateral but swings furiously.
Barron is a hugely talented pianist - one of the best jazz pianists alive today -, and his bop-based style with flowing lyricism and unique melodic sense in in full display here. And unlike his other recent albums, this CD mostly features his beautiful interpretations of standards and ballads. Barron, George Mraz and Ben Riley sound perfectly relaxed and inspired at the same time. One can tell from this CD that they enjoyed playing together very much. This is clearly one of Kenny Barron's best albums to date!. Highly recommended!