Have you ever been in public with nothing particular on your mind and suddenly realized that, without intending to, you were evesdropping on a conversation of remarkable warmth and intimacy? You probably felt nearly as uncomfortable to continue listening as you were powerless to stop. Hearing Ted Rosenthal and Bob Brookmeyer playing together puts me nearly in that place.
But I say "nearly
in that place," because these two incomparable musicians have in fact invited us to eves drop. They were playing live in concert on August 28, 2001 at the Memorial Hall Center for the Arts in Wilmington, Vermont, and we are privileged to join those in attendance through the miracle of modern electronics. But, let me assure you: the warmth and intimacy of their conversation was both real and timeless; the fact that this was the first time that these two musicians had "spoken" in this way makes their obviously simpatico
communication even more remarkable.
Both of these artists have a world of experience on which to build, of course: one need only remember that, born in 1929, Brookmeyer has been one of the pre-eminent jazz musicians and composers for more than a half century; while Rosenthal, born thirty years later, came to attention after winning first prize in the second annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition and cut his musical teeth with the likes of Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Jon Faddis, Benny Golson, and Gerry Mulligan.
By playing proven, well-known standards in this duo setting, Brookmeyer and Rosenthal are free to assume our knowledge of the melodies. They can thus cite them only fragmentarily or obliquely, proceeding more directly to what they do best, namely, improvise. And improvise they do, melodically, creatively, and conversationally. Their improvised counterpoint on "All the Things You Are," for instance, is like nectar from the gods.
We do not rate music here at All About Jazz, but if we did, this CD would get my highest marks. I will return to it often; the conversation on this CD is that between two honest, advanced and noble souls, and I am awed and humbled at this opportunity to eavesdrop on that interaction.