Jacky Terrasson and Stefon Harris began their duo set at the Kaplan Penthouse by tossing snippets of sound back and forth like tennis pros. Their atonal, clipped and playful lines slowly assumed a recognizable form, and before you knew it they were off on a bright version of "What Is This Thing Called Love." Harris displayed his characteristically athletic approach to both vibes and marimba while Terrasson left lots of space at the piano — something he’s been doing more and more in his own work. The playing styles mirrored the personalities. It was no surprise that Harris did all the talking between tunes.
The two ventured forward with Terrasson’s "Baby Plum," a staple of the pianist’s repertoire, its memorable melody and softly persistent quarter-note rhythm practically hypnotizing the audience. From here the duo segued directly into an expansive "Summertime," with Bacharachian reharmonizations on the turnaround that made it seem to last and last, like a feather finding its way to the ground. Harris’s "Rebirth," part of a 12-part suite the vibraphonist completed recently, hushed the room even more with its delicate, precise rubato articulations. Then each player briefly took the floor alone, Harris with "There Is No Greater Love" and Terrasson with "La Vie en Rose," a cut from his new album A Paris... A quick romp through Monk’s "I Mean You" and they were done, all too soon. To hear more we’ll have to wait for Harris and Terrasson’s duo album Kindred, due out this summer.
Pianist D.D. Jackson and baritone sax titan Bluiett joined forces on 1997’s Paired Down, Volume I and 1998’s Same Space, so they’ve had ample opportunity to meld their complementary jazz visions. There seemed to be a realistic possibility that Bluiett would blow out the Penthouse windows on his 6/8 minor blues "Nuttin’." The drama of his brawny low tones was matched by his ability to reach well beyond the baritone’s proper range, ekeing out piercing high notes that no fingerings, only embouchure, could access. And what control! Bluiett could handle fast-moving melodic lines in this pseudo-range. The most staggering display of the technique was toward the set’s end, on "Pentium IV Blues" (which, as Jackson explained, used to be Pentium II before the upgrade). Jackson, for his part, could match Bluiett’s raw energy inch for inch, but he also brought a more pastoral, contemplative sound to the gig. Two numbers in particular, "African Dreams" and "Prologue," featured Bluiett on wood flute and contrabass clarinet respectively, and the resulting tones and textures were nothing short of rapturous. Hints of Debussy and Jarrett creep into Jackson’s writing, other examples of which were "One Night," "Sidewalk," and the closing waltz, "Fort Greene Park."
Jazz at Lincoln Center is commonly equated with the neotraditionalism of Wynton Marsalis. But the duets series at the Kaplan has fostered some surprising and nontraditional exchanges, and this too is under the auspices of J@LC, let’s not forget. Last year saw the pairing of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink, for instance. And later this year and into next, the series will feature Lee Konitz with Paul Motian, Greg Osby with Jason Moran, Joe Locke with John Hicks, and more.