Concentric Circles (Blue Note)

Kenny Barron Quintet

Released May 4, 2018

JazzTimes Top 10 Albums of 2018

Grand Prix de l’Académie du Jazz 2018

DownBeat Five-Star Review




In 2018, the esteemed pianist, composer, bandleader and educator Kenny Barron will celebrate his 75thbirthday and mark the 50th year of a remarkable recording career that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the year will be punctuated with yet another milestone: the release of his Blue Note debut Concentric Circles, a sublime 11-song set that finds the 11-time Grammy nominee returning to a dynamic quintet setting. On Barron’s previous two Impulse! releases – The Art of Conversation and Book of Intuition – he created magic in more intimate settings: duo with bassist Dave Holland and trio with drummer Jonathan Blake and bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, respectively. And while duo and trio outings have set many of the high-water marks of Barron’s enormous discography, his 1968 debut LP You Had Better Listen was a quintet session co-led with trumpeter Jimmy Owens, as well as his critically acclaimed 1986 LP What If with trumpeter Wallace Roney, saxophonist John Stubblefield, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Victor Lewis.

Track Listing:

1. DPW (Kenny Barron) 4:52

2. Concentric Circles (Kenny Barron) 7:27

3. Blue Waters (Kenny Barron) 5:40

4. A Short Journey (Kenny Barron) 5:29

5. Aquele Frevo Axe (Cesar Medes / Caetano Veloso) 8:16

6. Von Hangman (Kenny Barron) 4:44

7. In the Dark (Kenny Barron) 7:01

8. Baile (Kenny Barron) 5:17

9. L’s Bop (Lenny White) 5:55

10. I’m Just Sayin’ (Kenny Barron) 6:52

11. Reflections (Thelonious Monk) 4:44


Kenny Barron, piano
Kiyoshi Kitagawa, bass (1-10)
Johnathan Blake, drums (1-10)
Mike Rodriquez, trumpet and flugelhorn (1-10)
Dayna Stephens, soprano and tenor saxophone (1-10)

Recorded March 19 – 20, 2017, at Systems Two Studios, Brooklyn, NY

Produced by Kenny Barron

Co-Produced by Karen Kennedy

Engineer: Joe Marciano

Mixed and Mastered by Max Ross


Pianist Kenny Barron debuted fronting a quintet in 1968, and now, age 75, embodies progressive jazz modernism’s continuity with post-bop traditions. There’s nothing old-fashioned about the 11 tracks on Concentric Circles, his 47th album as a leader, featuring eight original compositions and four younger colleagues. Barron employs tunefulness, fine touch and implacable swing smartly, with ease and variety, based on his decades of experience. Every track is exemplary, but consider the opener, “DPW,” a Blakey-esque air taken at a confident tempo. Its arrangement sets up shapely solos from Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Mike Rodriguez on trumpet and Johnathan Blake on drums. Barron is creative even in the background, as is bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, holding things together without flash, just grace. Cohesion and subtlety are basic to Concentric Circles, moments of particular beauty emerging from its stream of high-minded, yet gratifyingly grounded, play. The title track, a waltz, evokes sweetly sad memories via the head’s flugelhorn-tenor harmony and the horn players’ tone-true statements. Barron’s tastes extend to Brazilian sambas, as per his cover of Caetano Veloso’s “Aquele Frevo Axe,” and Afro-Cuban montunos, but he long ago absorbed those influences into his warm, understated style. Yes, he could be showier, but why? His project is perfect as is, drawing the ear with delicate flourishes and turns. His unaccompanied version of Monk’s “Reflections,” concluding Concentric Circles, is simply divine.

Howard Mandel (DownBeat)