The Art of Conversation (Impulse!)

Kenny Barron and Dave Holland

Released October 14, 2014

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2014

Record of the Year 2015 Jazz Journalists Association Awards




These two titans began performing together as a duo throughout Europe and the U.S. in 2012. One such performance at Jazz à la Villette in Paris in September of that year caught the attention of Jean-Philippe Allard, producer and Managing Director of the newly reinvigorated impulse! record label who was so moved by the concert that he encouraged Barron and Holland to head into the studio to document their profound rapport on record.

The resulting album is a showcase of their individual and combined musical ingenuity. Holland contributes four originals – “The Oracle,” “Waltz for K. W.,” “In Your Arms” and “Dr Do Right” – while Barron offers three of his own compositions: “The Only One,” “Rain,” and “Seascape.” The duo complements their originals with bracing renditions of Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” Charlie Parker’s “Segment,” and Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s “Daydream.”

Throughout, Holland and Barron imbue each performance with an enormous sense of jazz history paired with a simpatico that comes from a musical relationship that stretches back 30 years. Born only three years apart, their paths crossed many times in New York during the 1960s and 70s with each developing reciprocal admiration, but they didn’t record together until Barron’s 1985 trio LP Scratch.

Both Holland and Barron have illustrated musical brilliance in the duo setting throughout their respective careers. Barron has recorded numerous critically acclaimed duo albums – many produced by Allard – with such luminaries as Stan Getz, Charlie Haden, Buster Williams, and Regina Carter.  Likewise, Holland has documented duo explorations with such notable jazz pioneers as Steve Coleman and Sam Rivers. 

“[Duos] afford you the opportunity to go into different directions,” states Barron, when asked why he loves the intimate yet also intimidating setting. He also explains that he revels in playing duo with bassists because it gives him a foundation to unravel exquisite voicings. For Holland, it’s the direct and intimate interactions of just two musicians that attract him to the duo setting, noting that Barron is both a “tremendous listener as well as a tremendous player. For me, it’s a harmony lesson every time I play with him,” Holland adds. “I always love playing with musicians that I can learn from and increase my understanding of the music. And I certainly had that experience playing with Kenny.”

Track Listing:

1. The Oracle (Dave Holland) 06:16

2. The Only One (Kenny Barron) 06:23

3. Rain (Kenny Barron) 07:34

4. Segment (Charlie Parker) 05:59

5. Waltz for Wheeler [Dedicated to Kenny Wheeler] (Dave Holland) 06:12

6. In Walked Bud (Thelonious Monk) 06:23

7. In Your Arms (Dave Holland) 06:44

8. Dr. Do Right (Dave Holland) 05:15

9. Seascape (Kenny Barron) 06:10

10. Daydream (Duke Ellington / John Latouche / Billy Strayhorn) 07:37


Kenny Barron: piano

Dave Holland: double bass

Recorded March 5, 2014, at Avatar Studios, NY

Produced by Dave Holland and Kenny Barron

Co-Produced by Karen Kennedy and Louise Holland

Recording & Mixing Engineer: James Farber

Assistan Recording Engineer: Aki Nishimura

Mastered by Greg Calbi

Project Supervised by Jean-Philippe Allard

Executive Producer & Art Direction: Farida Bachir

Painting Cover: Patrice Beauséjour

Design: Marielle Costosèque


Beginning in 2012, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland formed a duo partnership that found them performing live all around the world. The duo’s 2014 studio album, The Art of Conversation, showcases this collaboration with a simple, beautifully understated mix of standards and original compositions. Journeyman solo artists and bandleaders in their own right, both Barron and Holland are virtuoso musicians who’ve made their mark playing disparate, if compatible, styles of jazz. On one hand, Barron, with his impeccable technique and lyrical taste, is an influential master of straight-ahead post-bop jazz. On the other hand, Holland, also blessed with imposing technique, has moved with deft ease between avant-garde jazz, athletic post-bop, and straight-ahead sessions. What they share is a thoughtful, measured precision and attention to detail, as well as empathetic musical ears that allow for deep musical interplay. All of which is on display here. There’s a palpable sense on The Art of Conversation that both Barron and Holland have a deep respect for songs and the composer’s original intent. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t take such songs as Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Daydream” and make them their own. This balance between respecting the composer and allowing for individual interpretation is especially highlighted on a handful of their own original compositions, including Barron’s languid and elegiac “Rain,” on which Holland takes the melody, and Holland’s similarly dreamlike ballad “In Your Arms,” on which Barron takes the helm. Ultimately, it’s this kind of sympathetic collaboration, mutual respect, and creative synergy that makes The Art of Conversation such a joy to listen to.

Matt Collar (AllMusic)