Dan Ouellette on Kenny Barron:
One of the most renowned, most lyrical pianists in jazz today, Barron was awarded the prestigious Jazz Masters, in the class of 2010—an honor bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a multiple-Grammy nominee, was honored with induction into the American Jazz Hall of Fame (2005), and received the MAC Lifetime Achievement Award (2005) and the Mid Atlantic Arts Living Legacy Award (2009). In 2009, Barron was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an esteemed honorary society and center for independent policy research.
While relishing the accolades, Barron reflects on his career as a top-drawer artist as a work in progress. “I don’t think of myself necessarily as an innovator,” he says. “But what I have contributed to jazz is keeping a commitment to the honesty of the music. I never do anything that’s too slick, and I play what I feel. I believe in having fun, which took a long time to discover—to not take myself so seriously.”
As a composer, arranger and bandleader, Barron has spent close to six decades at the forefront of the jazz piano aristocracy. An in-demand sideman in his early days on the jazz scene, the Philadelphia native launched his solo career in 1973 with Sunset to Dawn, released by Muse Records. Not one to rest on his laurels, Barron continues to tour widely—and learning more as he goes.
Barron is already thinking of his next projects. “I feel like I’m still evolving, trying to grow,” he says. “As I get older, I find that I’m more willing to leave my comfort zone and take chances as an improviser.”
After a recent stint with Impulse, Kenny now records for Blue Note Records.
Ouellette, Dan, "Kenny Barron Interview by Dan Ouellette, 2017" (2017). Jazz Interviews Archive. 33.