The pairing of a pianist and a reed player sans rhythm section always invites interesting possibilities. Three separate duos are all sessions worth exploring.
Mike Nock & Dave Liebman Duologue Birdland Records
Mike Nock, a New Zealand native but longtime Australia resident, is joined by saxophonist Dave Liebman for this 2004 concert recorded by Australian radio. Nock's introspective opener "Acceptance is an appealing ballad with a slight bittersweet air. They take "On Green Dolphin Street down paths rarely traveled. Likewise, "The Star Crossed Lovers is not tackled straight on, but with Liebman weaving around its mournful theme. The second half moves into free jazz territory with Liebman's wild "Nadir , while the fireworks displayed in the saxophonist's haunting ballad "Breath and driving finale "The Panderer prove that a two-decade stretch since last recording together hardly keeps the pair from rekindling earlier magic.
Bud Shank & Bill Mays
Beyond the Red Door
Altoist Bud Shank and pianist Bill Mays' opportunities to record together have been sporadic in recent years. They make the most of their reunion, opening with a boisterous romp through "Red Door . Two moving ballads combined as a medley, Russ Freeman's "The Wind and Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks , finds Shank's emotional alto complemented beautifully by Mays. The pianist strums and hand mutes the strings to provide an unusual introduction to "The Touch of Your Lips with Shank filling in the gaps until the piece turns toward more traditional bop. Shank and his wife co-wrote two pieces, the bittersweet "Why Not Now? and "Carousels , the latter which begins as a ballad but transforms into a lively bossa nova.
Bob Mintzer & Gil Goldstein
(Longing) marks the first musical meeting of Bob Mintzer and Gil Goldstein. This reissue of a 1995 session is a rare opportunity to hear Mintzer in a duo setting with a consummate accompanist in Goldstein, who, like his partner, is also a top notch bandleader and arranger. Mintzer sticks to tenor sax and Goldstein to piano, with a few exceptions. Mintzer penned five originals, his tenor features including his intricate post-bop vehicle "What's the Word and the mournful title ballad. Mintzer switches to bass clarinet for his "Angelique & Ellen , a heartfelt ballad in which he makes his instrument sound close to a vocalist. He also plays it on the neglected Bill Evans ballad "Your Story . Goldstein switches to accordion for Mintzer's playful "Two To Tango , a catchy piece where the smiles in the studio seem visible. Goldstein's tunes are no less compelling: "Three Little Initials is a superb post-bop work, though "Jaco is prematurely faded in the midst of a Mintzer solo. The sole standard is "Everything Happens to Me , which opens with Mintzer saluting Dolphy with a brilliant unaccompanied bass clarinet introduction.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Acceptance; On Green Dolphin Street; Star Crossed Lovers; Nadir; Breath; The Panderer.
Personnel: Mike Nock: piano; Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone.
Beyond the Red Door
Tracks: Red Door; The Wind/The Peacocks; Why Not Now?; Quietly; The Touch Of Your Lips; I Loves You, Porgy; Carousels; Everything I Love; Where Or When.
Personnel: Bud Shank: alto saxophone; Bill Mays: piano.
Tracks: Overlap; Jaco; Angelique & Ellen; Comotion; Longing; Your Story; What's the Word; Two to Tango; Three Little Initials; Everything Happens to Me.
Personnel: Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Gil Goldstein: piano; accordion.