You and I
is a disc that had to grow on me over several listenings. And grow on me it did. My first spin left me mostly unmoved. The music and approach were interesting, but not novel. The concept of a vocal duet with various instruments is nothing new. It is not really that far out there that this disc had the voice coupled with each of the standard jazz rhythm section instruments. I had heard this all before with varying degrees of success. However, my subsequent listenings revealed a music of subtle richness, like a fine cup of coffee after dinner. This music is something to be acquired, savored and ultimately enjoyed.
You and I is the jazz modification of the classical voice-instrument recital. The majority of duets are the traditional piano voice configuration followed by guitar, drums and bass duets. The central instrument in all is the voice that is supplied by the very able Mary Pearson. Her voice is a seamless chameleon alto that purrs in one phrase and growls in the next. In all cases, Pearson sings with great lyricism and melody. The unadorned environment of the duet offers her ample room to experiment and otherwise show off her considerable technique and talent.
As one might expect, the piano duets (followed closely by the guitar setups) are the most accessible and effective pieces. For this recital, the brilliant balladeers, Fred Hersch and Lynne Arriale provide piano support for Pearson. In the Hersch propelled "Over the Rainbow" and the Arriale driven "My Funny Valentine" do we find the disc highlights. On the other end of consideration are the drum duets. In this setting, Pearson is given the maximum room to perform as the drums provide only the rhythm of the piece. I have a soft place for voice bass duets. The bass still allows a great deal of room but adds a harmonic element to the duet that the drums cannot. My only quibble with this disc is that only one rather than two pieces were framed in a bass-voice duet.
This is a very engaging disc that I would suggest to anyone needing music for that special evening. It would be equally at home as the background for a party or a more intimate occasion.
Personnel: Mary Pearson: Vocals; Steve Davis: Drums; Lynn Arriale, Fred Hersch; David Lahm: Piano; John Hart: Guitar; Harvie Swartz: Bass.