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Remi Alvarez / Ingebrigt Haker Flaten: First Duet Live

Jerry D'Souza By

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Tenor saxophonist Remi Àlvarez has drawn several musicians into his sphere as an improviser. The collaborations have spawned several fine recordings that brim with intense interplay and resolute imagination. His encounter with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is no exception.

Born in Oppdal, Norway, Flaten has made an impact on the Scandinavian free jazz movement. Wanting to expand his horizons, he moved to Chicago and then to Austin, where he now makes his home. His journeys have served him well and have seen him carve a niche not only with his own groups but also in the company of exciting innovators like saxophonists Tony Malaby and Ken Vandermark; Àlvarez fits right in.

Àlvarez and Flaten recorded this music at the No Idea Festival, in San Antonio, Texas. It was as much an interweaving of the mind as of the soul. The two make strong, impassioned excursions on three duets that flame the pathways of improvisation.

Àlvarez is a blistering force on "First Duet." Probing at first as Flaten swoops and curls, he soon blows up a storm. His phrases cut deeper, are heavier and torque and twist. Flaten is a visionary who not only sets a steady pulse as Àlvarez goes on a long melodic trail, but brings key changes to the timbre with his rumbling of the strings and the patter of his stick.

The opening tour-de-force leads to a calmer ambience as "Second Duet" gets underway. The squiggle of the tenor sax, the rustling of the bass, the empathy between the two as they navigate the road makes for a compelling build up. Flaten stirs up fascinating formations and when Àlvarez steps up to flesh the theme with lines that grind into the pith, the potency of their partnership is fully realized.

This was the first meeting between Flaten and Àlvarez; First Duet Live cries out for more.

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