Inspired by legendary clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's small group recordings, Romanians Lucian Ban (piano) and Alex Simu (clarinet) recorded these luminous duets at The French Cultural Institute in Bucharest, as they personalize the aura of Giuffre's comingling of chamber and modern jazz with sojourns into experimentalism.
It's a gorgeous endeavor, executed with tender harmonic content, reflective passages and heartwarming melodies. From an all-inclusive perspective, the musicians ingrain bluesy phrasings, buoyant mid-tempo jaunts and impassioned choruses, shaded with playful interludes and shifting discourses amid an abundance of counter-maneuvers and sober musings. Indeed, they project a congruent musical partnership.
On Giuffre's "Jesus Maria" the duo enacts a moody ballad due to Simu's sublime phrasings and Ban's melodic comping of the primary theme, yet they add a bit of tension with a light touch and throttle the pitch in spots. However, "Mysteries" is driven by the pianist's lower register ostinato, offset by the clarinetist's swirling lines, ascending into the upper-registers where he coalesces with Ban's fragile voicings.
"The Pilgrim" is ignited with Simu's dry, popping bass clarinet notes, as Ban provides a colorful contrast via his ringing harmonics for a piece that intimates a semblance of curiosity or venturing towards a mysterious destination. Simu advances toward a bluesy schematic tempered with a two-note motif that segues to the artists' regeneration of the primary hook with animated and jazzy improvisational tactics in addition to gospel inflections. Essentially, the musicians inject quietly penetrating storylines with airy backdrops and a laid-back gait. For sure, this delightful and irrefutably tuneful album offers quite a bit of replay value, presented by musicians who instill the spirit of Giuffre with a personalized spin that works wonders.
Quiet Storm; Free Fall; Jesus Maria; Mysteries; Near; The Pilgrim; Cry, Want; Used to Be.
Lucian Ban: piano; Alex Simu: clarinet and bass clarinet.
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