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Alex Harding - Lucian Ban: Dark Blue

Glenn Astarita By

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Lucian Ban (piano) and Alex Harding (woodwinds) have performed and recorded together for 20-years besides their prominent activities within global progressive jazz and improvisational circles. The universal language of jazz is conveyed here as Detroit-reared Harding and the Romanian born pianist gel to a variety of tempos amid solstice, reflective sentiment, off-centered blues balladry and bouncy grooves. Toss in some lyrically resplendent tapestries of sound and a crystalline audio production, you are liable to become entranced by the duo's moody vibes that are etched within an underlying sense of glee.

The musicians occasionally engage in some friendly fire but Harding's deep bass clarinet work on "Black Sea" is comped by Ban's lower register contrasts and loosely articulated Latin phrasings along with his playful picking of the piano strings that offer Harding some improvisational rhythmic support. Other works feature soul-stirring dialogues with Ban's up-tempo ostinato vamps and ascending block chords, adding a bit of tension and dynamic buildups on "Not That Kind Of Blues," countered by Harding's edgy wails and a catchy hook. Here, the duo rips through concise unison statements and ballsy exhortations as they build intensity and execute some reverse-engineering metrics along the way.

It's easy to detect that the duo has been collaborating all these years. At times they seem clairvoyant while interacting and reinventing, without rushing the game-plan by veering off into abstruse angles or rummaging through extended soloing blowouts. Essentially, there are many magical moments throughout this pleasurable and incisive set.

Track Listing: Dark Blue; Tough Love; Chakra; Black Sea; Monkey See; Not That Kind Of Blues; Esto; H.B; Lowcountry Blue; The Invisible Man; Hymn.

Personnel: Lucian Ban: piano; Alex Harding: baritone saxophone & bass clarinet.

Title: Dark Blue | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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