Explore Bio

Kenny Barron

piano

Honored by The National Endowment for the Arts as a 2010 Jazz Master, Kenny Barron has an unmatched ability to mesmerize audiences with his elegant playing, sensitive melodies, and infectious rhythms. Born in 1943 in Philadelphia, Barron started playing professionally as a teenager with Mel Melvin’s orchestra and, while still in high school, worked with drummer Philly Joe Jones. At age 19, he moved to New York City and played with Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan, and James Moody. Upon Moody’s recommendation, Dizzy Gillespie hired Barron in 1962 without even hearing him play a note. After five years with Dizzy, Barron played with Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, and Buddy Rich. After working with Yusef Lateef and Ron Carter in the early ‘70s, Barron formed a trio with Buster Williams and Ben Riley, which also worked alongside Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt, and Harry “Sweets” Edison. Throughout the ‘80s, he collaborated with Stan Getz, touring with his quartet and recording several legendary albums including Anniversary, Serenity, and the Grammy nominated People Time. During that time he co-founded the quartet “Sphere,” along with Buster Williams, Ben Riley, and Charlie Rouse, which focused on the music of Thelonious Monk and original compositions inspired by him. Sphere recorded several projects for the Polygram label, among them Four For All and Bird Songs. After the death of Charlie Rouse, the band took a 15-year hiatus and reunited, replacing Rouse with alto saxophonist Gary Bartz.

Barron has recorded over 40 albums as a leader since his first album Sunset To Dawn (1974). His own recordings for Verve have earned him nine Grammy nominations including People Time (1992), a duet with Stan Getz, Sambao (1993), and Freefall (2001). Three of his albums also received a double Grammy nomination for album and solo performance: Spirit Song (1994); Wanton Spirit (1994), a trio recording with Roy Haynes and Charlie Haden; and Night and the City (1996), a duet recording with Haden. Recent albums include Book of Intuition (2016) with Kiyoshi Kitagawa and Jonathan Blake, Concentric Circles (2018) with Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Johnathan Blake, Mike Rodriguez, and Dayna Stephens, and Without Deception (2020) with the Dave Holland Trio.

Whether he is playing solo, trio, or quintet, Barron is recognized the world over as a master of performance and composition. He consistently wins the jazz critics’ and readers’ polls, including those by Downbeat, Jazz Times, and JAZZIZ. His awards include the Living Legacy Award from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation in 2019, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Spanish ceramicist Lladró in 2012, and honorary doctorates from his alma mater SUNY Empire State in 2013 and from the Berklee College of Music in 2011. In 2005, he was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame and won a MAC Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a six-time recipient of the Best Pianist Award from the Jazz Journalists Association.

Barron earned his B.A. in music from SUNY Empire State College. From 1973-2000, he was a professor of music at Rutgers University where he mentored many young artists including David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard, and Regina Bell.