Any literate review of Interconnection will mention the classic duo recordings Bill Evans and Jim Hall made in the mid-'60s, and for good reason: guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hoffmann approach improvisation in much the same way. Their world is one of dynamic interaction, spare phrasing, polite poise, clean tone, and a certain intangible cerebral element which comes across by implication. Hoffmann's four-part suite which launches the record sounds so uncannily like the earlier recordings that it's almost scary.
Those comparisons hold Interconnection up to high standards, and to be honest the recording falls short. But is it fair to compare? Hmmm. Maybe some objective standards are called for here. The secret to making this sort of restrained playing work is to enliven it with quiet energy, a certain spark below the surface that percolates up in unexpected ways. Unfortunately there are quite a few times where this energy is just plain missing, as on the langorously slow "Azure Dreams," which founders and never really gets off the ground, or the bluesy "Rumblin'," which doesn't get deep enough into the soul of the blues.
Fortunately there are moments when the duo flies, as on the quiet storm of "Desafinado," with its understated rhythm and crystal clear melodies. Hoffman's "A Place to Hide" intertwines piano and guitar lines, riding off trills into sing-song fun; the Gershwins' "Bidin' My Time" deviates from the formula and brings a dance & song aesthetic into the mix. These are the more up-tempo pieces.
Sneider and Hoffmann are both at very high levels musically: their style, their communication, and their composition all reflect mature minds and capable hands. It's unfortunate that they chose to stick to the straight and narrow without livening things up more. Interconnection has the sort of sentimental softness which may just be appropriate for more laid-back listeners, but I can't say it works for me.
Jazz Suite for Guitar and Piano: A Good Book, Another Cup of Tea, Azure Dreams, Heart of the Matter; Mood Indigo; Rumblin'; Desafinado; Scooby; A Place to Hide; Bidin' My Time; Benjamin; Mini Me; This Town
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