Kristjan Randalu / Bodek Janke: Live (2008)
Pianist Kristjan Randalu and drummer Bodek Janke have performed as a duo for more than twenty years, and quite naturally have developed an exceedingly close rapport. Live is a recording of the award ceremony concert for Randalu winning the 2007 Baden-Wurttemberg Jazz Prize. Coincidentally, Janke won the same prize in 2008.
Each musician separately is highly energetic, inventive and full of good spirits. Together, they threaten to pull you out of your seat, put a smile on your face and get you moving. The music they make is not complicated, but direct and full of enough surprises to grab and keep your attention, as indicated by the wild applause from the audience.
The opening and closing tracks"Confidance," an original by Randalu, and "Igaühel oma pill," a traditional Estonian tune arranged by Randalutake up half of the recording's 50 minutes. Both are wondrous romps that have Randalu's precise and rhythmically incisive playing feeding the equally propulsive percussion work of Janke. Each musician can take and hold the lead; and, since they know each other so well, the organic arrangements feel quite natural.
However, it is the two standards, plus the arrangement of the familiar "Largo" from Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 "Z Nového sv?ta" (From the New World) Op.95 (1893) that are the most impressive. Randalu expertly controls the tension as he maintains the balance between staying in contact with the tune and moving away from its melodic contours.
Randalu introduces "All the Things You Are" obliquely, with hints of the melody dropped along the way until it becomes clear what he is playing. At one point, Janke jumps in and the two are off and running. However, instead of merely being a headlong rush of inventions on the theme, the duo continually shifts moods and meter while maintaining the tempo. The effect is wonderful, as is the trading that goes on between the two players.
A bell, followed by various cymbals and a percussion solo from Janke, introduces "If I Were a Bell," so the tune is actually unknown until Randalu enters. Once again, the song is refracted a number of ways, with sections of differing energy and emphasis; but having a constant tempo. Janke is masterful in his percussive accompaniment, which varies continuously, raising it to percussive counterpoint.
Randalu plays inside the piano to begin Dvorak's "Largo," as Janke raises controlled squeals from his cymbals, indicating an expansive treatment of the ensuing theme, which is taken apart and put back together in a light-hearted but serious way.
Randalu and Janke are a unique and highly talented duo, playing extroverted and entertaining music. Live demonstrates the appropriateness of giving them the consecutive jazz awards, as their music communicates the joy of giving and receiving.
Track Listing: Confidance; All the Things You Are; Largo (from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9); Hinken; If I Were a Bell; Iga
Personnel: Kristjan Randalu: piano; Bodek Janke: percussion.
Record Label: Jazz'N'Arts Records