In direct contrast to the ambitious musical scope of his Nu Jazz-ish Melange Bleu (ACT, 2006), Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson teams up with Polish rising-star pianist Leszek Możdżer for Pasodoble, an intimate series of duets that reflects both musicians' penchant for haunting lyricism and deceptive simplicity.
While improvisation is a fundamental part of these fourteen miniatures (most under four minutes and only one in excess of six), so too is form. Generally subdued in nature, the romantic impressionism of the duo's writing leans more towards a European classicism than a traditional jazz vernacular. Still, a deeply felt simpatico provides the spontaneity that, even in the context of the more structured writing, provides Pasodoble with its fair share of surprises.
There are traces of the unexpected in terms of reference points. Możdżer's "Distances" hints at the music of Spain, with Danielsson layering pizzicato cello atop his resonant bass, while a Brazilian breeze warms the bassist's gentle "Prado."
The majority of the set may be understated and introspective, but Danielsson's brisk title track finds both players interacting with a keener edge. Możdżer's "Follow My Backlights" possesses the same kind of dry humor and irrepressible groove found in Oregon bassist Glen Moore's writing, with Danielsson's tone more visceral and the pianist's playing more buoyant. Możdżer's "Hydrospeed" is another up-tempo track that helps provide Pasodoble with a strong and divergent narrative, demonstrating both the pianist's and Danielsson's ability to think quickly on their feet.
It's possible to envision some of the material as settings awaiting words. Danielsson's "Entrance" is a rubato tone poem with a compelling melodic theme that acts as a unifying focal point. Możdżer's "It's Easy With You," like Danielsson's nuanced "Daughter's Joy," is deceptive in the rich complexity that runs underneath its quiet and, at times, almost sing-song arc. On the other hand, the duo takes "Eja Mitt Hjarta," the only non- original track on the album, and places its strong melody within a darker and more temporally elastic context. Danielsson's bowed cello and Możdżer's harmonium provide an atmospheric ending to this adapted folksong, evoking images of broad, desolate vistas.
The subdued nature of Pasodoble might lull listeners into a deceptive sense of security, but beneath its overall atmosphere of calm lies the aesthetic of two artists who understand that palpable interplay and exploration needn't be overstated, and that within subtlety lies the potential for exceptional power.
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