It's been a long time since the great German-Hungarian clarinetist Lajos Dudas released the first volume of Some Great Songs (Double Moon Records, 1998). Here he is again with an especially diverse collection of material, ranging from bossa nova to modern jazz to standards. These are intimate arrangements centered around Dudas' clarinet and Philipp van Endert's guitar; they are joined by Kurt Billker or Jochen Büttner on percussion on five of the eight tracks.
Geraldo Pereira's "Falsa Baiana" opens the set on a sunny bossa note (with Billker's gently grooving percussion). While there have been numerous recordings, it's not one of the bossa workhorses, so it is still fresh. The bass-less trio approach works especially well for this style, and it's a recurring sound in the set. Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" follows, and serves notice that not all of the arrangements will be sunny and light. It's all atmosphere, with volume swells from the guitar, echoing clarinet, and clattering, textural percussion from Büttner. Paul Desmond's classic "Take Five" receives similar treatment: Dudas plays it as a ballad, while guitar overdubs (or looping) provide both a bass line and atmospherics, and Büttner again plays texture instead of timekeeping.
The other modern jazz classics are both played without percussion. The fleet unison lines of Bill Evans' "Interplay" and the blues of Miles Davis' "Vierd Blues" are played straight ahead, and van Endert gets a chance to show the full sound he can get as sole accompanist. Dudas sneaks one original into the duet portion of the program, his lovely ballad "A Quiet Day." Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" is played as a bossa. The clarinet does not enter with the head until halfway through, putting a spotlight on Billker's rich percussion arrangement. Franz Lehar's sweet standard "Yours Is My Heart Alone" (from the 1929 operetta The Land of Smiles) closes the set. Dudas' lyrical clarinet gives way to a Latin groove after Billker enters, a feature for the guitarwith a humorous tag to end the tune and the album.
Some Great Songs Vol.2 is an apt title indeed. And the songs get the great arrangements and playing they deserve.
Falsa Baina; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Interplay; A Quiet Day; Smile; Take Five; Vierd Blues; Yours Is My Heart Alone.
Lajos Dudas: clarinet; Philipp van Endert: guitar; Kurt Billker: percussion (1,5,8); Jochen Büttner: percussion (2,6).
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