by Ian Mann
October 05, 2020
A swinging, unpretentious, unapologetically mainstream recording, but the quality of the playing, the arrangements and the production all combine to ensure that it stands out from the pack.
“From This Moment On”
(Ubuntu Music – UBU0064)
Rob Barron – piano, Jeremy Brown – double bass, Josh Morrison – drums
“From This Moment On” is the second album as a leader from pianist Rob Barron, a mainstay of the London jazz scene. It follows his self released 2016 début “What’s In Store…”, which featured the pianist leading a quartet including the rhythm team of bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Josh Morrison, plus guitarist Colin Oxley. Review here;
This latest release, following his signing to the Ubuntu label, sees that group pared down to the classic piano trio format with Barron again joining forces with Brown and Morrison. The pianist explains the inspirations behind this latest recording thus;
“On this album I have created a work that reflects who I am as an artist today. In a departure from my début album this recording centres on the piano trio. Now is the time to produce a classic trio recording that reflects my influences and puts me in the piano trio spotlight. My playing and arranging style has developed greatly since my début and I feel energised by the musical bond within the trio, the arrangements, and the space I am in as a player”.
The new album also puts a slightly greater emphasis on Barron as a composer, with two original pieces included among the album’s ten tracks, the others mainly sourced from the ‘Great American Songbook’.
Barron graduated with a BA Hons degree in Jazz Studies from Leeds College of Music, before moving on to further studies in London (The Guildhall) and New York, picking up a number of awards along the way. He is a highly versatile musician who has worked on both the jazz and session scenes in London accompanying visiting North American jazz musicians such as saxophonists Phil Woods, Benny Golson and Grant Stewart and vocalists Al Jarreau, Patti Austin and Marlena Shaw.
He has also worked with top UK based performers including saxophonists Jean Toussaint and Dave O’Higgins, trumpeter Steve Fishwick and vocalists Claire Martin, Liane Carroll, Jamie Cullum, Sara Dowling and Jacqui Dankworth.
As a session musician Barron has toured and recorded with Paloma Faith and has arranged and recorded music for the Baz Luhrmann film “The Great Gatsby”, as well as appearing on a number of other movie soundtracks. He has also worked with film composer Rachel Portman and with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Barron was a founder member of saxophonist Adam Waldmann’s acclaimed Kairos 4tet and has also worked with larger ensembles such as the Gareth Lockrane Big Band and the BBC Big Band. His playing has earned the approval of fellow pianists Benny Green and his illustrious namesake Kenny Barron.
Barron’s musical inspirations include fellow pianists Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, Errol Garner, Duke Ellington, Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark. He acknowledges the influence of a number of these in his album liner notes and cites their use of harmony as a key influence on his own playing. “It is this kind of elegance and sophistication that I wanted to achieve in my own interpretations of the jazz standards on this recording”
The album commences with a version of the standard “Lover Man”, an interpretation that more than adequately demonstrates those qualities of elegance and sophistication that Barron aspires to. It’s an attention grabbing opener that quickly establishes the close knit rapport between the members of the trio, with Morrison’s nimble brush work neatly complementing Barron’s piano melodies and Brown’s stabilising bass lines. Things take off with an expansive, brightly sparkling solo from Barron, fuelled by Brown’s propulsive bass and Morrison’s briskly brushed drum grooves. Morrison then switches to sticks for an effervescent drum feature that sees him circumnavigating his kit with great élan. Then it’s back to the brushes again for a breezy closing section.
The Leslie Bricusse / Anthony Newley song “Pure Imagination” has become an increasingly popular vehicle for jazz musicians in recent years. Barron and the trio explore the piece with intelligence and sophistication, probing its harmonies while maintaining a sure grasp of swing and dynamics. Morrison again gravitates between brushes and sticks as required, and is again featured as a soloist, as is Brown who enjoys a brief first foray on the bass.
Next an engaging voyage around Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart”, another perfectly balanced trio performance that once more demonstrates the intuitive rapport between these three musicians.
Barron takes the first solo, followed by Brown, with the bassist allowed more space this time round, and taking the opportunity to display a strong melodic sensibility alongside an innate sense of time and swing. Morrison turns in another fine performance behind the kit, rich in terms of both nuance and detail.
Oliver Nelson’s “Butch and Butch” is another well known tune from the piano trio canon that has been tackled by the likes of Keith Jarrett among others. Nevertheless Barron and the trio bring plenty of themselves to a vigorous, bebop style interpretation that includes lively solos from the leader at the piano and Brown at the bass, plus a series of sizzling drum breaks from Morrison.
The first Barron original, “Fortune Green”, is very much in the lineage and fits in well with the album as a whole. Engagingly melodic and lightly swinging, with Morrison occasionally injecting Latin inflections from the kit, the piece includes a gently expansive piano solo from Barron and a melodic, softly swinging excursion from Brown at the bass.
A salvo from Morrison’s drums introduces an engagingly upbeat interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”, which incorporates a mercurial solo from Barron, fuelled by Brown’s muscular bass lines and the brisk tick of Morrison’s drums. The piece is also something of a feature for Morrison, who again enjoys a series of sparky drum breaks.
Cole Porter’s title song is up next with Morrison describing his choice of album title thus;
“‘From This Moment On’ struck me as the perfect name for this album. As well as being the title of the Cole Porter song featured on the record, I felt that the optimistic nature of the lyrics (From this moment on, No more blues songs / We’ll be riding high / Every care is gone…) is a positive and hopeful statement during this period of crisis for the world. It brings a sense of looking forward to a brighter future.”
Porter’s music is a byword for the kind of elegance and sophistication that Barron seeks, so this also makes his tune an ideal choice for the title track. Again the piece is introduced by Morrison at the kit, more gently this time, as the trio embark on a typically intelligent and nuanced interpretation, the patter of Morrison’s brushes dovetailing neatly with the leader’s pianistic explorations and Brown’s springy bass lines.
Barron’s second original composition is “Evidently”, introduced by Morrison at the drums and a relentlessly energetic piece performed by the trio with considerable zest. Things hurtle along at a breakneck pace with Barron’s scurrying piano passages punctuated by a series of vigorous drum explosions from Morrison. It represents the shortest track on the album, but one suspects that it would become considerably extended in live performance, becoming something of an audience favourite in the process.
By way of contrast the album concludes with the only true ballad performance, a stately and unhurried performance of Johnny Mandel’s “A Time For Love”. Here the focus is very much on tenderness and lyricism with Barron caressing the melody, aided by deeply simpatico bass and brushed drums. Barron stretches out with great sensitivity while Brown adds a deeply melodic double bass solo.
“From This Moment On” represents an impressive statement from Barron, and fully achieves his objectives for the album. As a lover of new music I’m sometimes inclined to be a little dismissive of albums that rely almost exclusively upon standard material, but the arrangements and performances here are a cut above the average, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this album.
Barron, Brown and Morrison manage to find something fresh to say on every tune and the standard of the playing is exceptional throughout. This is a perfectly balanced trio and the music is rich in terms of nuance and detail, while remaining unfailingly upbeat and swinging. The musicians are well served by an excellent mix that delivers their sound with a pinpoint clarity. The album was recorded at Livingston Studios in London and the engineering team, headed by Darren Williams, also deserve great credit. Barron is pictured on the album cover playing a Steinway grand, and the instrument sounds just wonderful throughout.
Barron’s two originals fit well into the context of the album as a whole, and hopefully the success of these two pieces will encourage him to write more.
As before this album is a swinging, unpretentious, unapologetically mainstream recording, but the quality of the playing, the arrangements and the production all combine to ensure that it is a cut above the usual and stands out from the pack.
Barron’s liner notes sign off with a quote from the late, great Cedar Walton;
“My aim is to write music that is enjoyable to play and enjoyable to listen to”.
In his own way this is what Rob Barron strives for too – and on this album he succeeds brilliantly.