Following the critical acclaim and enthusiastic response to Heavy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New Orleans R&B, compiler Stuart Colman has dug deep into the city’s unique recording legacy to bring about a sumptuous second helping. In addition to the requisite sourcings, the net has been cast wider still in order to focus on material gleaned from such picayune outlets as Rustone, Pontchartrain, Athens, Winner and Spinett. There is a very good reason for this.
Over the course of time, Heavy Sugar has been the title of a song, the name of a radio station, an independent movie and the primary ingredient for a rapturous recipe. How fitting it is that this latter description also epitomizes the ingredients that go to make up Heavy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New Orleans R&B. Just think, if the celebrity chefs of New Orleans were to whip up Heavy Sugar until the peaks start to form, then the hostesses on Bourbon Street would go that little bit further and add any flavour necessary to achieve a creamy finish.
Kenny Barron, the 72-year-old Philadelphia-born virtuoso, is the kind of jazz pianist whose resources are familiar and much-covered by mainstream swing players, but whose joyfully extravagant execution is a rarity today. That quality transforms this trio set from being a canter through a smooth-jazzy assortment of soft ballads, Latin smoochers and glossy swing. Barron has absorbed an encyclopaedia of jazz methods from a life on the road with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz, and it pours out in these tracks. Magic Dance, with its glistening chords and Latin-jazz tick, sounds smooth at first but unleashes an impulsive torrent. Ballads such as In the Slow Lane display his impeccably light touch and Thelonious Monk’s Shuffle Boil isn’t Monkishly lateral but swings furiously.