Thursday, July 5, 2012
Tenor Sax and Piano: Two Recent Recordings
To my ears, the greatest tenor sax and piano duo was "People Time"by Stan Getz and Kenny Barron. Whether you purchase the two disc highlights or the entire box set of all of the performaces, this is a beautiful pairing of two expressive and sympatico masters at their most creative, even as this was Getz' last recording as he sadly died three months later.
The disc leans toward the melancholy, with haunting moods, lyrical lines and subdued play by both men, particularly Marsalis pulling back on his horns. The melancholy is encapsulated in Marsalis' "The Bard of Lachrymose," with Marsalis on a haunting soprano sax. Calderazzo's "One Way," is one of the few peices expressing the mirth. It is a more swinging, bluesy piece than most, and the conversation between the two friends is upbeat and tied to the old swing traditions of jazz. Overall, "Songs of Mirth and Melancholy" is surprisingly subdued, and while it is an exceptional partnership and expressive CD, the melacholy overwhelms the CD and leaves mirth well into the background. A nice listen and one I would recommend, but remember that it is more subdued than the title suggests.
The newer of the two CDs herin is "Smoke and Mirrors" (kwrecords 2012) by Bobby Wellins and Kate Williams, and this too is a subdued set played by two wonderfully expressive players.
"Smoke And Mirrors", the title song, is a collaborative piece by both composers/players and sets the mood for the recording, which is subtle, relaxed, and harmonious. The two work easily together trading leads and comping in an effortless way. standard: languid, relaxed interplay between tenor saxophone and piano that has the effortless ease that can only come from players in total command of their craft. Williams' does have a solo on her composition "What If..." and it is a stirring and emotional experience, but the real fun is in hearing the duo, on either their own pieces or on a couple of standards. The first of the two is an interpretation of Jobims's "If You Never Come To Me," with Wellins' tenor warm and romantic; and the second is Gershwin's "The Man I Love", where Williams provides the swinging rhythm for Wellins simple and effective playing of the melody.
This is another example of two players understanding each other and the music, who do not over-embellish the melodies, play with restraint, and provide the listener with a wonderfully laid-back set. The two set the mood from the outset -- langourous and romantic -- and the music glows with their warmth and charm.
Highly recommended and available from jazzcds.co.uk.