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Piano/Bass Four-Fer

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Charlie Haden / John Taylor

Nightfall

NAIM Audio

2009


Jolle Léandre / Quentin Sirjacq

Out of Nowhere

Actuelle

2009


David Haney / Jorge Hernaez

Duo

Noseso

2009


Connie Crothers / Michael Bisio

Session at 475 Kent

Mutable Music

2009


There has always been a bond between pianists and bass players. Perhaps it's the complementary way that strings are vibrated. These encounters thrive as forums for improvisation of the highest order.

Of the four sets here, Charlie Haden/John Taylor's Nightfall is the most conventional in terms of harmonic and melodic familiarity. This is not to say that the interplay is any less powerful; how could it be with presences as persuasive as these two? "My Love and I" is a gorgeous Johnny Mercer/David Raksin composition from the film Stealing Beauty. Stripped of its movie theme status, it's an intimate ballad with a darkly beautiful melody. Haden's tunes take on a new intimacy and sound like anthems for the night that looks to the new day. The pianist's originals "Au Contraire" and "Windfall" are a bit more impressionistic as they dance around a melodic base, but by virtue of their richness engage the bassist and the listener just as fully. Also of special note is "Touch Her Soft Lips," a song written for the film Henry V.

Out of Nowhere, the title of French double bassist Joelle Leandre's new recording with pianist Quentin Sirjacq, her student at Mills College, tells us a great deal—the two look into the universe and pull music out of what seems like an emptiness. What's notable is that they are able to give form and, more importantly, expressive shape to their improvisations. Sirjacq is something of a spare minimalist, which gives a simple context for Léandre to open up exploration, often bowing her bass and/or utilizing harmonics. A dazzling track is "Ruin," in which some otherworldly vocals from Léandre create a volcanic power, pulling more raw intensity from Sirjacq before returning to an almost eerie quiet. "Awakening" finds Sirjacq adding to his sonic arsenal by playing prepared piano.

Pianist David Haney is called a "lifetime student of spontaneous composition" and for H Duo, he teamed up with Jorge Hernaez, a bassist from Argentina who has a background in symphonic music and tango. Haney plays looking for sonic possibilities and often finds percussive effects that sound like they're coming from other instruments. The elements of this music—especially from an acoustics perspective—are somehow both minimal and profoundly rich and diverse. And there are striking contrasts—most often between a notion of space and a dense palette, filled with adventurous noise. Hernaez bows, scrapes and plucks and sometimes—as in "L7 F1" or "Color 3"—it's difficult to pinpoint the individual source of the sound. But spontaneous improvisation allows for that kind of delirious confusion.

Connie Crothers is known originally for her association with influential musician Lennie Tristano and has worked with everyone from Warne Marsh to Roscoe Mitchell, with lots of stops on the way for solo performances and work with singers and dancers. Bassist Michael Bisio and Crothers are ideally matched on Session at 475 Kent's four dense and ever-growing improvisations. The music was created at Crothers' studio and it rewards active listening with sounds and ideas that bubble up, sometimes Crothers sparsely adding sounds under Bisio's more frenetic bowing and other times deftly attacking and caressing the keyboard. And then, of course, there are times when it seems the two are as one. The colors range from more traditional jazz harmonies and pulses to places where the two float completely free. And that kind of freedom makes for the most revelatory explorations.

Tracks and Personnel



Nightfall

Tracks: Chairman Mao; Nightfall; My Love and I; Au Contraire; Windfall; Touch Her Soft Lips; Song for the Whales; Bittersweet; Silence.

Personnel: Charlie Haden: bass; John Taylor: piano.



Out of Nowhere

Tracks: Opening; Fragment; Fragment 2; Presence; The Call; Ruin; Absence; Hallucinations; Moon Journey; Awakening; Closing.

Personnel: Joelle Leandre: bass, voice; Quentin Sirjacq: piano, gong, prepared piano.



Duo

Tracks: Item 2; Color 1; Color 2; H Duo ...?; Portland; Dial; Color 3; Item 1; Radial; Erosion H; L7 F1

Personnel: David Haney: piano; Jorge Hernaez: bass.



Session at 475 Kent

Tracks: Improvisation # 4; Improvisation # 5; Improvisation 7; Resonances

Personnel: Connie Crothers: piano; Michael Bisio: bass.

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