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Aaron Goldberg / Guillermo Klein: Bienestan

Mark F. Turner By

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Collaborations between two jazz pianists on the same recording are rare. Yet in the case of rising stars Aaron Goldberg and eclectic composer Guillermo Klein's Bienestan—whose title means "a place of well-being"—the collaboration works on many levels and translates into a rewarding experience.

Their connection began at Berklee in the 1990s. Goldberg played piano in Klein's big band as Klein was studying composition and ironically had not yet started playing piano. Each artists' career developed through notable works including respective releases in 2010 on the Sunnyside label: Goldberg's Home, a scintillating trio outing with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers; and Klein's ambitious Domador de Huellas—Music of "Cuchi" Leguizamon, dedicated to the great Argentinean composer.

Bienestan is not just the usual "solo/accompanist" outing between two players trading chops. Klein plays Fender Rhodes and provides arrangements/compositions, whereas Goldberg is the primary soloist on piano. The set consists of duets and a number tracks augmented by the stellar rhythm section of bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland, as well as splendid work from top saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Chris Cheek. Throw in a couple of standards, some original compositions, and its business as usual from major talents, right? Well, not quite.

First there's the matter of synchronicity. Whether creating latticed ostinatos ("Implacable") or haunting melodies ("Burrito"); Klein's sense of time and space is always intriguing. This is most evident on the rework of Charlie Parker's "Moose the Mooche," where the syncopation seems to shrink and stretch like rubber, but is kept within a tight swing parameter.

Secondly there's the matter of communication and flow. The language between Goldberg and Klein is subliminal; its codex not just based on charts or music. The piano and keyboards on Klein's dazzling "Human Feel" seem to mirror one another as the rhythm section and horns muscle through a squirming rhythmic workout. In contrast, "Anita" is quietly compelling; layers of sound and a purposed movement that's emotive like a pleasant memory.

Goldberg's technical abilities are crystal. On two different versions of the Brazilian classic "Manhà de Carnaval" (Morning of Carnival) by composers Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria, he proves to be a young master of empathy and touch as well as speed and control. And as typified in his past works, Klein's interpretations and compositions carry traits of romanticism and modern classicism, all rooted in a vibrant Argentinean and Spanish ethos. He is a composer whose pen adds wealth to each track, whether working through the rigors of tempo and mood as found in "Impresion de Bienestan."

More significantly, this collaboration sheds light on how two artists' differences can work together in simpatico.

Track Listing: All The Things You Are; Implacable; Moose The Mooche; Burrito; Human Feel; Anita; Blues for Alice; Manhã de Carnaval (Black Orpheus); Airport Fugue; Manhã de Carnaval (Orfeo Negro); Yellow Roses; Impresion de Bienstar; Amtrak/All The Things You Are.

Personnel: Aaron Goldberg: piano; Guillermo Klein: Fender Rhodes; Matt Penman: acoustic bass; Eric Harland: drums; Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone (3, 5-7, 11); Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone (5, 6), soprano saxophone (11).

Title: Bienestan | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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