It takes two to tango. Two guitars, that is, on this quartet album by Kenny Wheeler, a very personal outing in a novel setting. Guitarists John Abercrombie and John Parricelli partner with the trumpeter on these Italian sessions, as well as bassist Anders Jormin.
References to world music permeate Wheeler's idiosyncratic style in these original compositions (there are also two wholly improvised tracks). He has an original way of shrouding lyrical melodies with chords and progessions that seem to be selected primarily for their colours, instead of their function. The unicity of his "chords-for-colour" approach to modal harmony has attracted many devoted followers and students.
Reminiscent of his own Angel Song (ECM, 1997) and Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny's Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve, 1997), It Takes Two! shares the narrative quality of the latter recording. In fact, one may wonder why Wheeler has yet to be commissioned a film score.
"Comba No. 3" is an unhurried melody with an Ennio Morricone/Nino Rota-like aura. Parricelli and Abercrombie exemplify lyricism in their solos; the latter's fine playing on steel-string guitar is long overdue. Parricelli's phrasing is dramatic, dynamic and nuanced. The guitarists' luminous chordal playing enlivens the surprising modulations and drowsy feel of "One Of Many." "Love Theme from Spartacus," an easy three-note motif composed by Alex North for Stanley Kubrick, is suave in its simplicity.
The flugelhorn overdubs on the solo "Fanfare" and "After All" add texture to this intimate recording. On the latter, Parricelli's volume swells and distorted edge contrast with Wheeler's sultry and velvety tone. Alternating throughout the album between acoustic and electric guitars, the two Johns blend beautifully on "My New Hat" and "It Takes Two," Wheeler's take on tango. Jormin's warm sound, as well as Abercrombie's Wes Montgomery-like thumbing, both bring richness to the aural experience.
Personnel: Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn; John Abercrombie: guitar; John Parricelli: guitar; Anders Jormin: