John Blum and Jackson Krall: Duplexity

Troy Dostert By

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John Blum and Jackson Krall: Duplexity
A pianist of undeniable virtuosity and uncompromising intensity, John Blum has impressed free-jazz aficionados since the early 2000s with his uniquely potent approach to his instrument. One can easily hear the influence of Cecil Taylor in his ferocious, jaw-dropping power; but just as important are his ties to earlier pianists. There is just as much Art Tatum as Taylor in Blum's manic flights, as lightning-quick stride passages are as likely to surface as his more concussive thunderings. Fortunately, he's teamed here with a drummer eminently capable of matching his seemingly limitless energy, as Jackson Krall was Taylor's go-to drummer for fourteen years starting in the late 1990s and he brings a massive sound, with his own deep reserves of strength.

Despite the musicians' notoriety, the 2010s were a quiet decade for both, at least in terms of recorded output. Krall appeared on Steve Swell's Nation of We in 2012 (Cadence Jazz), and Blum had a pair of releases in 2009, with a solo disc called Who Begat Eye (Konnex) and a trio album with Sunny Murray and William Parker, In the Shade of Sun (Ecstatic Peace!). But since then, it seems, their work has been limited to live outings. This makes this project most welcome, especially when one dives into the music. It's clear that these two still have plenty to say.

Some freely improvised recordings begin tentatively, as the players seek to find a mutual foothold before they ratchet up the intensity. That is not Blum's approach. From the very beginning of the first piece, the aptly-titled, 21-minute "Blood and Bone," Blum charges in with mighty bass register rumblings, assaulting the piano as much as playing it, and Krall is right there with him, accentuating Blum's fusillade of chords with a mix of rolling thunder and well-timed detonations. But it's not just the explosive violence in Blum's technique that impresses; it's the sheer discipline and control that allow him in even his most tumultuous moments to hint simultaneously at the boogie-woogie and stride piano traditions, thus leavening his otherwise unrelenting onslaughts.

While at sixteen-plus minutes "Wind and Wing" isn't as long, it still possesses just as much passion—and with a somewhat greater emphasis on the upper register, Blum's command and precision are even more noticeable. With very few moments of respite, the physicality of the music is striking, and the stamina needed to produce it is equally astonishing.

Kudos to Relative Pitch for bringing these two stalwarts together—and fittingly for the label's 100th release.

Track Listing

Blood and Bone; Wind and Wing.


John Blum: piano; Jackson Krall: drums.

Album information

Title: Duplexity | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Relative Pitch Records

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