Top Jazz Pianist in the World to visit Grand Rapids

Courtesy /

Courtesy /

Jenny Adkins

For all the jazz lovers out there, the St. Cecilia Music Center (SCMC) in downtown Grand Rapids will be featuring a very special treat on Thursday, Nov. 1.  The 11-time Grammy Award nominated Kenny Barron Quintet will be performing the second of four jazz series concerts for the 2018-19 music season. 

Among his several nominations, Barron has several points of success throughout his career. He has been honored by The National Endowment for the Arts as a 2010 jazz-master and has been inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as being awarded the Living Legacy Award from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and becoming initiated into the American Jazz Hall of Fame. 

It all started in 1992 when Kenny Barron conducted his own recordings for Verve, which resulted in nine Grammy nominations. This iconic performance was paired with a duet with Stan Getz followed by the Brazilian influenced “Sambao” and most recently for “Free Fall” in 2002.

“We look at some of the ‘best of’ in jazz and talk about who would be good for our series,” Holbrook said. “We strive to bring very high-caliber artists who are well-known, well-respected and have great careers.” 

With that being said, The Los Angeles Times named Kenny Barron “one of the top jazz pianists in the world,” and he was also named the best pianist in 2017 by the Jazz Journalists Association for the seventh time. 

The concert tour is titled “Concentric Circles” and it introduces Barron’s new quintet with three emerging artists: tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, drummer Johnathan Blake and bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa. The tour is inspired by a new album the quintet released in summer 2018 titled “Concentric Circles.” 

“The audience should be excited to see this pianist because the accolades he has received prove what a consummate musician he is, and hearing him live in the intimate setting of Royce Auditorium will be a concert they won’t soon forget,” Holbrook said. “Kenny Barron has been inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame… so having the opportunity to hear this great artist will be thrilling to jazz fans.”

Holbrook’s overall statement for this upcoming performance highlighted the “sleek, modern mainstream jazz led by Barron’s precision and the strong artistic improvisation that he’s so well known for.”

The SCMC will include two more concerts in the jazz series that is upcoming in February and March. On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Hammond B-3 Organ Player Joey DeFranceso will be in Grand Rapids with his group “The People.” On Thursday, March 7, the well-known jazz singer Veronica Swift will perform with the Benny Green Trio.