2x2: Piano and Saxophone

Geno Thackara By

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Mulo Francel and Chris Gall
GLM Music

Mulo Francel and Chris Gall know what they're doing in choosing a title as apt as Mythos—its ethic was built on the pair's worldwide travels and particularly inspired by a climb on the Greek island of Samos. The framework of this duo session dabbles in things jazzy and vaguely rock-ish, but there's also a deliberate patience and mantric sensibility that's rooted in time-honored forms as well. There's a balance of beautiful melodies and circular minimalist forms that manages to catch the ear and still stay elusive as a daydream.

Gall can hold a good vamp at the keys, though he often leans toward partita-style forms that gradually build harmonic structures from streams of single notes. His smooth-flowing precision and crystalline piano tone make lines that tumble like waterfalls. He and Francel effortlessly switch from conventional rhythm/melody parts to smooth-flowing counterpoints that interlock into a beautiful whole. For his part Francel weaves beautifully floaty lines with deliberation always anchoring his flights.

Though "Yorke's Guitar" hypnotically establishes the session's primary soothing shade from the start, there are several complementary others to come. The duo get more lively on "Reality Check" while mixing in a dash of boogie. A buoyant Bach variation drifts off into the clouds with their charming improv-friendly arrangement always staying true to the piece's structure. "Sketches of Styx" touches on town-hall vaudeville, while their easy-strolling read of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave" sounds just the way a warm spring day feels. It's a dreamlike affair as peacefully centered as a Zen meditation sitting and warm as a sunrise.

Chip Stephens and Glenn Wilson
Sadness and Soul
Capri Records

The duo setting is a more leisurely one for Chip Stephens and Glenn Wilson, though their interplay is no less sharp and sympathetic. Taking full advantage of the format's freedom, they relish the approach of having two equal parts without a particular lead. The program is one of familiar standards, from the practiced lope through "Giant Steps" to a largely straightforward "'Round Midnight" that finds its variation in subtle dynamics and lightly skewed prepared-piano sounds. The session feels like a chat between them rather than an actual performance; there's no concern for anything but the songs and each player's part in complementing the other.

Sadness and Soul doesn't lean much on the sadness (heaviest in the expressive title track) but offers more than enough of the soul to make up for it. Stephens' rhythmic foundation has a little stride and a lot of bounce. He and Wilson may start off capering on the opener, but this hour is full of dynamics that show their knowledge of when to tone things down and simmer as well. Even more interesting is their habit of rejiggering chords and harmonics to change the familiar songs' flavor without going beyond recognition. Thankfully, any such dressing only further brings out the heart of the songs and the players both.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Track Listing: Yorke's Guitar; Palinuro; Die 7 Weisen; Reality Check; Jesu bleibet meine Freude; East of the Sun; Ikarus' Dream; Dido's Lament; Wave; Sketches of Styx; Old Folks (live).

Personnel: Personnel: Mulo Francel: saxophone, clarinet; Chris Gall: piano.

Sadness and Soul

Tracks: Giant Steps; My Romance; Adams Park (For Pepper); In a Mellow Tone (Melatonin'); Sadness and Soul; Spring is Here; 'Round Midnight; Countdown; Our Love is Here to Stay.

Personnel: Glenn Wilson: baritone saxophone; Chip Stephens: piano.

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