The increase in house concerts throughout the country is apparent, taking place in big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Baltimore, as well as in smaller towns such as Columbia, Missouri, where this recorded duo date took place. Appearing at the home of Barbara Tellerman and Allyn Sher in 2009, pianist Bruce Barth and saxophonist Steve Wilson created some excellent music with vibrantly alive sound quality.
Barth and Wilson have been playing together since they met in New York in the late eighties, mostly alongside each other in groups. This is the first time, though, that they have recorded as a duo, a context ideal for their sensitive, creative talents, providing ample space for back-and-forth exchanges and the freedom to expand in solos.
The song selection includes four Barth originals, each containing varied textures. Adding the mix, each player brings in witty instrumental quotes from the Great American Ssongbook, including occasional phrases from masters like George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.
Highlights are plentiful here, particularly on Barth's compositions, starting with "The Ways of the West," where the duo's chemistry is palpable in the sweet blending of piano and soprano sax at the song's beginning. In the liner notes, Wilson writes that he has the mentality of a "frustrated drummer," a quality apparent in his solo, which incorporates solid rhythmic bursts on his horn.
On the atonal "Keep It Moving," Barth shows his Thelonious Monk influence, reaching a peak in his jagged solo. The pace is then slowed by the gorgeous "L. C.," featuring Wilson's haunting soprano solo, matched by Barth's flowing arpeggio runs.
A further change of stride is provided by "Blues Interruptus." Lowdown and bluesy, Barth offers up a few bars, onto which Wilson immediately grabs with his alto. On Bud Powell's be-bopper, "Wail," Wilson gives his all in a dazzling, swirling Charlie Parker-like solo.
"Sweet and Lovely" ends the CD on a high note. Barth's swinging, rocking solo suggests a mini-history of jazz, with allusions ranging from Earl Hines, Art Tatum and Fats Waller to Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner. This wrap-up also underscores the almost extrasensory musical communication between its participants.
Personnel: Bruce Barth: piano; Steve Wilson: soprano and alto sax.