In a way it seems out of nowhere, and in a way it was a long time coming. While Maria Baptist has ranged from solo to trio to big band and more, throughout her career at the piano, Jan von Klewitz's saxophone has been a more steady presence beside her than than most. He came on board with Baptist's ongoing Jazz Orchestra on its debut Here and Now (self produced, 2016), then provided the plus-one when her trio was expanded to trio-plus-one for Poems Without Words (self produced, 2017). Their rapport developed further through some performances as a duo, enough so that by early 2020, they were so eager to set down a proper duo recording that a mere global pandemic wasn't enough to stop them.
Facing Duality convincingly argues that getting past any logistical hurdles was well worth it in the end. Even though they could have done things remotely, the performance beautifully shows just how keen their chemistry is and how these things always work best face to face. The titular duality theme can be interpreted in a variety of ways here. Baptist's composing style still snazzily weaves elements of jaunty jazz and European classical; the players are comfortable with busy clattering or sparse simplicity; they can stay in close step or take off on small flights without losing sight of where they are.
There's a fair share of busy roiling that still always stays classy, while the song selection gives longtime listeners a mix of familiar and strange. "Natural Landscapes" dates back to Here and Now, but its gently bouncing read here makes it feel almost impossible that the piece once worked for a big band. Originally a solo piece taken from 2018's Resonance (self produced), "Stillness Speaks" gets slowed closer to the point of stillness than ever at first, then builds to a startlingly busy peak even without changing the slow-drifting pace.
The pair's mutual trust is palpable through it all. Baptist tumbles and glides across the keys while Van Klewitz's tone is a distinctly rich one, full enough to provide a little weight to the sound even while slowly floating. It again reflects a duality in actionboth players can be light or heavy, or busy or calm as the moment calls for. All the small mixes of complementary qualities really make for a multiplicity on display, all shown to quietly powerful effect in these most versatile hands.
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