The duet is a difficult beast; depending on the circumstances and the players involved, it can be a powerful display of improvisational ability or a lesser statement. With Night Call, a somewhat low-key but still fairly free-wheeling set of duets, pianist Marc Copland and alto saxophonist Greg Osby have created a rather personal document. Copland began his career working with Chico Hamilton in the 1970s and has since worked regularly with saxophonist Dave Liebman and Osby, among others.
The set list consists of three tunes by Osby, five by Copland and one by Mal Waldron ("Soul Eyes"). The pair only occasionally picks up the pace from a solemn, meditative pose, Copland's spare, minimal lines weaving in and out of Osby's keening alto. Copland's "Autumn Wind," which opens up the disc, brings a Philip Glass-like repetition to the compositional table, and whet the appetite for something truly different. Unfortunately, "minimalism" here is used as a sparse aesthetic, rather than a modus operandi. Though the players' collective seamlessness is in many ways a remarkable example of "one-mind" improvisation, there is a sameness to the proceedings, with much of the music running together in a midrange whole. Only rarely does an arpeggio or odd turn of phrase jump out, making this a more ambient recording than it probably means to be. Part of this may also be due to the ultra-crisp recording quality, which sterilizes much of the immediacy that a personal statement such as this requires. Osby is a powerful player, and has lent much to recent bands led by Andrew Hill, but with Copland he often resorts to histrionic, overwrought phrasing and his playing seems rather uninspired.
Caught on a different day, with a more varied repertoire and a different recording style, this might have been a very interesting duo recording. Given the circumstances, however, this session falls short in a number of ways.