Kenny Barron to play Festival’s finale

With heavy bass grooves, light-as-a-feather guitar and flute, deep percussion and Kenny Barron’s fluid, lyrical bop piano, Canta Brasil is a powerful new force in jazz and Brazilian music, and it will be bringing its rich and infectious sounds to Chapin Hall on Saturday, April 26, as the finale to this year’s jazz festival.

Canta Brasil is Barron’s most recent project in his distinguished career as a jazz pianist. The quintet enlists the help of Trio da Paz, a Brazilian trio with Romero Lubambo on guitar, Nilson Matta on bass and Duduka da Fonesca on drums. Anne Drummond, a 21-year old graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, rounds out the ensemble on flute.

The group released its first album together, Canta Brasil, in 2002. On that album and in performance, a special sort of chemistry between these players brings a common musical vision into focus. Their music explores a shimmering synergy between traditional Brazilian forms and rhythms and American jazz and strikes a perfect balance between danceable, gutsy grooves and bright melodies.

Barron is one of the greatest talents on today’s jazz scene. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he began early-on as a sideman to some of the giants of jazz history. He played with Philly Joe Jones while in high school in the late ’50s and then relocated to New York City, where he found gigs with Roy Haynes and Lee Morgan before landing a job in Dizzy Gillespie’s band in 1962.

Since then, he has found work with some of the greatest talents of the bebop and post-bop generations, including Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Buddy Rich, Yusef Lateef, Ron Carter and Stan Getz.

In the ’80s, he played in the band Sphere, whose music was highly influenced by that of Thelonious Monk, until he began recording as a frontman in the early ’90s. Barron has also been a great educator and held a post at Rutgers University from 1973 until 2000. More recently, he has recorded with some of the jazz scene’s up-and-coming stars, including Regina Carter, who played at the Williamstown Jazz Festival in 2001.

The rest of the Canta Brasil’s members are similarly accomplished. The members of Trio da Paz all studied in their native Brazil before arriving in New York in the ’80s. Lubambo began studying classical guitar at a young age. After finishing a conservatory education and then earning a degree in mechanical engineering, he taught himself how to play Brazilian music and jazz. He then moved to the U.S. and quickly found work with such luminaries as Diane Reeves, Michael Brecker and Herbie Mann.

Matta was also originally classically-trained, studying bass with Brazil’s most accomplished players. In Brazil, he played with João Gilberto and Hermeto Pascoal. Since arriving in the U.S., he has played with the legendary Joe Henderson, Gato Barbieri and Randy Brecker, among others.

Da Fonseca’s accomplishments as a drummer are no less impressive. Beginning his professional career in his teens, with television appearances at 15, he worked his way up to stints with some of the masters of Brazilian music and jazz, including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gerry Mulligan and Wayne Shorter. He has also performed with Tom Harrel, who appeared at Jazzfest in 2000 and John Scofield, who will be performing at Mass MoCA during this year’s Jazzfest.

Drummond, the group’s youngest member, is building her credentials at a rapid pace. A Seattle native, and trained in piano and trombone as well as flute, Drummond won acclaim for her jazz performance in high school at Lincoln Center’s Essential Ellington Competition, judged by Wynton Marsalis. She met Kenny Barron while a student at the Manhattan School of Music and has rapidly gained attention on the New York jazz scene.

Barron and Canta Brasil represent a number of generations of players and together carry on the rich legacy of Latin jazz. On Saturday, they will ignite Chapin Hall, tickle your eardrums and soothe your soul Brazilian-style with electrifying grooves and good vibes. It will be one of the most exciting performances in Jazzfest’s short history and will serve as a powerful conclusion to this year’s festival.