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Craig Fraedrich Tony Nalker: Alone Together

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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An involved listening to this oxymoron-titled album could easily have one thinking that trumpeter Craig Fraedrich and pianist Tony Nalker probably could have been categorized by Audobon as "birds of a musical feather." That's not a surprise since both spent decades in the elite U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble and they've worked together on Fraedrich's previous recordings.

The duo—along with ace guest vocalists Christal Rheames and Lena Seikaly—send up a dozen exceptionally well-performed selections. Across the date it is apparent that the pair are simpatico—each with exceptional technique, flair and a desire to make 1+1 equal more than a pair. They also frame the guest vocalists superbly.

Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," slightly modernized melodically, raises the curtain with Fraedrich's horn singing aggressively and pumped on by Nalker's cinematic accompanying. Lena Seikaly, a fine vocal artist, swings and scats-skips "Just Squeeze Me" while the men tastefully "Harmon wise" around her. Nalker's keyboard's stars twinkle into "I've Never Been in Love Before" before the bullet train leaves the station. "Lover Man," has the tasteful Rheams and her mates dripping azure. "The Things You Wish I'd Be" is Fraedrich's re-imagined take on "All the Things You Are." Rheams' "I Loves You Porgy" is a dramatic triumph for her and the duo behind.

Fraedrich is a technical marvel whose lines are long, serpentine, and highly involving—there are surprises galore. His resonant sound and jazz pedigree is more Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw than Chet Baker. He takes risks and they pay off in spades. Nalker, deeply musically involved throughout, is an elaborate player, reminiscent at times of the taste of Bill Evans ("Michelle") and with the muscularity of the legendary Johnny Costa of Mister Rogers fame. The two former Blues Brothers feed off of each other superbly. Their time is meticulous and the creative give and take is profuse without being goofily heavy, disingenuous and toe-stepping.

The approach on the title cut is saturnine with Nalker's reharm establishing same while the partnered trumpet cries. The track's somber tone belies the joy present throughout this album. Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" with Rheams vocal is a Saturday Night funky, Clark Terry salute with some Nalker stride rather than the expected than Sunday church-going. "Fradde's Song," a word-play "Easter Egg" by way of The Klezmatics, is an album highlight that features Seikaly shining. Nalker's "No You Didn't" is a funhouse mirror offering Monk-ish reflections and delights. The album's closer, "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," reharmed here, is streetlight-leaning with the men together, alone, and being perfectly Frank.

Alone Together is an engaging side enjoyed solo or, preferably, with company and beverage along for the rides.

Track Listing

In Your Own Sweet Way; Just Squeeze Me; I've Never Been in Love Before; Lover Man; The Things You Wish I Was; Michelle; I Loves You Porgy; Alone Together; Come Sunday; Fradde's Song; No You Didn't; In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.

Personnel

Craig Fraedrich: trumpet and flugelhorn; Tony Nalker: piano; Christal Rheams: vocals; Lena Seikaly: vocals.

Album information

Title: Alone Together | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: CFM

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