The duet outing Blued Dharma by pianist Adrean Farrugia and tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm is a nuanced affair suitable as background to a quiet evening but also worthy of closer reading.
The title track epitomizes the whole. Contemplative, balanced, subtly blended, tonally stolid, inviting, consequential. Throughout the following seven pieces, the pattern of ruminative exchange continues. Farrugia and Frahm exhibit patient thematic development and fluid, comfortable interaction. Far from a cutting contest, the music reverberates with a common perspective and is defined by equitable exchange, touched at times by the gravel and bite that belongs to conversations between individuals of common experience built over time.
The effect is a little akin to listening to two old friends of advanced years discourse together, the conversation flowing comfortablyand unpredictablybetween nostalgic reminiscences, commonplace observations, humor and ritualized debate, ground smooth by repetition, like water traveling down a stone bed, the grooves and channels defined by long erosion.
The key to the album's structure may be hidden in the name of the title track, though it is notoriously easy to over-interpret titles. The structure and feel of "Blued Dharma" is suggestive of a Buddhist sutra form, which uses dialogue to transmit multi-layered meanings in the guise of simple exchanges, often with each participant alternating roles throughout, the total meaning only visible when each part is taken as a whole.
Duet music can prove challenging both to perform and to absorb. Here, Farrugia and Frahm succeed at granting listeners easy access and holding their attention without pyrotechnics or overt complexityone just has to listen patiently.
Blued Dharma; Cherokee II; For Murray Gold; Gospell; Nobody Else But Me; Cherokee I; Half Moon.
Adrean Farrugia: piano; Joel Frahm: tenor and soprano saxophones.