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Together, Joel Frahm and Brad Mehldau interpret six jazz standards, one familiar Ornette Coleman fixture, one memorable pop classic, and one original composition. Each piece is delivered with a straightforward approach, keeping the central melody in focus while venturing just a bit off the beaten path to express personal feelings about the subject. Frahm moves fluidly through his instruments' ranges, flipping keys as fast as necessary in order to have his say. Mehldau provides a warm backdrop for the saxophonist and contributes delicate essentials. His clarion calls and glistening harmonic tools provide a sparkle.
Jazz needs its tradition, and Frahm and Mehldau hold that part of the formula at center stage. The pianist's exploration of 'Smile' represents what he does best. Massaging the song, reinterpreting the melody a little, and providing creative fuel for his performing partner, he honors jazz's forefathers with a unique interpretation.
Frahm remains equally adept with the soprano and tenor. His performance works best at a slower tempo, when the saxophonist has time to state his ideas fully. Hence, his two takes on ''Round Midnight' outweigh the faster, lighter track arrangements. There's plenty here to like, for both traditional folk and modern mainstream fans.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.