Pianist Russ Freeman made his name on the 1950's California scene with trumpeter Chet Baker's quartet and in Shelly Manne's quintet. He moved to the studios begininng in the early 1960's, occasionally taking time out to play real music such as this 1982 duet with drummer Shelly Manne. This record is a follow-up to a 1954 Freeman - Manne duet, The Two
(Contemporary). (There is also a 1957 trio with Freeman, Manne, and Andre Previn, Batter Up
(Contemporary), with a similar feel and some strong compositions by Freeman and Previn.) Freeman apparently retired from music shortly after this session. In his liner notes written in 2001 Freeman states this was his last record. He was only in his mid-60's, and the listener is left wondering why he stopped playing. He sounds as fluent as everthis may be his best record.
Besides his abilities as a pianist Freeman was (is?) also an accomplished composer with five tunes included on this record. All but one ("Name that Tune", a jazzing up of "Brahms' Lullaby") are worthy. The session has a percussive feel not because Manne or Freeman hammer on their instruments (The opposite is true.), but because their playing often takes the form of question and answer. Also the absence of a time-keeping bassist means it was left to Freeman to state or imply the time. (Manne plays accents or fills around the time.) Two tunes, "How about That" and "One on One," are partly in free time. The ballads "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Green Dolphin Street" sound more straight-ahead with Freeman playing melodic lead throughout.
Manne's playing in general was easy to take for granted. Even with his own bands he seldom soloed or mixed it up with the horns, preferring to stay in the background and allowing his influence to be felt more as musical director than drummer. This session with his subtle, intelligent, and musical drumming in bold relief captures his mature style more completely than his other records. (He died in 1984.) He and Freeman have come a long way as musicians since 1954. They were best friends and often played together. Above all their egoless rapport makes this music as valuable as it is.
Personnel: Russ Freeman - piano; Shelly Manne - drums.