Duos Galore: Connick/Marsalis, Jones/Lovano, Burrows/Hunt

Ernest Barteldes BY

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Harry Connick, Jr
Marsalis Music

Hank Jones & Joe Lovano
Kids: Duets Live At Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Blue Note

Don Burrows & Kevin Hunt
Eye To Eye Vol 1

Don Burrows & Kevin Hunt
Eye To Eye Vol 2

Saxophone/piano duets are case studies in music, specially jazz. Stripped of additional support, performers have simply to support each other throughout each tune. On a live setting or in the studio, this is a challenging premise that can either sound brilliant or fail terribly. Thankfully, on these three releases, we get the former - wonderful collaborations by experienced artists who thrive both as leaders and as band members.

So much attention is given to Harry Connick, Jr. as an actor and as a crooner that few fans actually realize how gifted he is as a pianist. On Occasion, Connick is joined by fellow New Orleans native Branford Marsalis for their first full album collaboration as a duo. On "Good To Be Home , a New Orleans-styled boogie, both playfully exchange riffs while "Valentine's Day is a more structured piece showcasing Marsalis' chops. On the title song (one of only two penned by the saxophonist; all the other selections are by Connick), they play around the melody, finishing together in an upbeat mode. Another highlight is "Spot , which, like "Good to Be Home , has a Bourbon Street feel.

Saxophonist Joe Lovano and pianist Hank Jones performed together in the spring of 2006 at Dizzy's Club and two nights were captured on disc. There are few pyrotechnics - they chose to play "straight , without becoming overly adventurous. One of the standout tracks is Jones' "Lullaby , in which both players take advantage of the tune's subtleties. On their playful take on younger brother Thad's "Little Rascal on The Rock , Jones responds to Lovano's improvisations by hitting the keys with increased intensity, energizing the saxophonist even further. Also nice is yet another Thad composition, "Kids Are Pretty People which provides the CD title.

Going in a completely different direction are reedist Don Burrows (who last month was inducted into the Australian Jazz Bell Awards Hall of Fame) and keyboardist Kevin Hunt, whose Eye To Eye: Volume One & Two feature a number of tunes ranging from American standards to pieces by Brazilian composers as well as original material inspired by the Australians' Latin American travels. The first volume opens with "Merida , an original composition by Burrows. Here playing flute, he seems to draw from tango - the cadence is set by Hunt on the piano, but the jazz language is not lost here. On the Deitz/Schwartz "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan , the reedman switches to the clarinet, giving the tune a certain '40s flavor. On Jobim's "Triste , Burrows clearly borrows from the Stan Getz/Byrd version off Samba Jazz (Verve). The second volume opens with Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To in a straight interpretation that gives a lot of space for Burrows' improvisations. "Buenos Air is once again inspired by Latin American music - here Hunt uses some keyboard effects to enhance the general sound and feel, using the piano as a support for Burrows' fine work. This is one of the most haunting moments on the disc for its careful approach and also its switched timings, appropriating elements from other genres.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Brown World; Valentine's Day; Occasion; Spot;I Like Love More;All Things; Win; Virgoid; Remember the Tarpon; Lose; Steve Lacy; Chanson Du Vieux Carre; Good to Be Home

Personnel: Harry Connick, Jr: piano; Branford Marsalis: saxophones.

Kids: Duets Live At Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola

Tracks: Lady Luck; Charlie Chan; Lullaby; Little Rascal On A Rock;Budo;Soultrane; Kids Are Pretty People; Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin';Oh! Look At Me Now;Four In One; Lazy Afternoon

Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor and soprano saxophone; Hank Jones: piano.

Eye to Eye Vol 1 & 2

Tracks: Vol 1: Merida; I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan; Triste; But That Was Yesterday; Loro; I've Got a Crush on You; Babinda; Time On My Hands; You Never Knew Vol 2: You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; Buenos Air; Maybe Tomorrow; Daydream;Interlude; Brown Shoes Blues; Our Love is Here To Stay; Mar Del Plata.

Personnel: Don Burrows: reeds; Kevin Hunt: piano, keyboards.

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