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Olga Konkova and Jens Thoresen seemingly can't sit down for a chat without something beautiful coming out. Each has a mellifluous touch on their instrument, but their eloquent back-and-forth chemistry is the bigger part of what makes their duo recordings special. Following on from the holiday collection December Songs (Losen, 2016), the pair sticks to the same approach of re-shaping their source songs almost beyond recognition, producing another excellent release suitable for late-night quiet moments during any time of year.
Old Songs puts some of the genre's best-known standards through the duo's looking glass to beautifully contemplative results. It would be a fun game for the jazz connoisseur to take a first blind listen here before reading the full "inspired by" list that accompanies the track titles. Spotting John Coltrane's iconic chord progression from "Giant Steps" isn't too hard, for instance, though its two renditions here amble at a determinedly non-frenetic pace that oozes with subtle warmth (and even comes out worthy enough for us to almost forgive the spelling of "Little Tweakz"). Such transformations remain the order of the day, whether they're giving the Beatles a gentle yet busily-rumbling tribute or turning Jobim's "The Girl from Ipanema" into the most soothing of sambas.
Konkova takes the more edgy role with piano cascades or rambling solo lines, though she's still willing to settle down to floating chords or briefly sit out when called for. Thoresen for his part sticks largely to deceptively simple lines and smooth-toned strums that create a perfectly soft bed for the songs to breathe. It would be great to hear what this pair could also do with a collection of original pieces or improvisations somewhere down the line. As long as this lovely banter is intact, though, it'll remain a small joy to hear them doing anything at all, old songs or new or anything in between.
Track Listing: Futile Sentiments; Lamento; Blue in Green; Bossa Verde; The Things We Could Have Been; Minor Tweakz; One Day!; Slow Walk; Tristissimo; Sol.
Personnel: Olga Konkova: piano; Jens Thoresen: guitar.
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.