Back in the summer of 2004, saxophonist Steve Heckman and pianist Matt Clark took to the studio to lay down some duo tracks. Those recordings have now finally found their way into the world through Some Other Time/Slow Café, an album presenting a dozen pieces that speak with casual and reflective charm while highlighting the rapport that these two men have with one another.
The straightforward sensibility of this pair is front and center across this entire program. There's a beautifully centrist quality to the music, ever-present in the unwrapping of familiar heads, the presentation of exploratory statements placed in the foreground, and the volleying of short(er) solos. In an age when the too-clever-by-half types often do standards a disservice through radical and aggressive design modifications, it's refreshing to hear many of these songs in relatively true-to-form states.
The known numbers that pop up along the way here are treated with due respect, but they never show their age; Heckman and Clark find a happy medium in these pursuits, honoring the strengths of form and melody while leaving no layers of dust anywhere. Thelonious Monk's lone waltz ("Ugly Beauty") takes on a streamlined quality and ends with a tweak. Tones of wistful beauty ("Some Other Time") pair nicely with rollicking contrast ("Get Happy"), and two numbers from the underappreciated Duke Pearson ("Jeannine" and "Is That So?") provide bright light. A haunting Jimmy Rowles classic ("The Peacocks") may be the tune that moves furthest afield, yet it still maintains the necessary ties to home. It's simply seen through a different lens with the loosening of time and the addition of a free prologue.
In terms of original material, we're given a seemingly abbreviated waltz from Clark's pen ("Foregone Conclusion") and three Heckman originalsan altered blues nodding to the great Lee Konitz ("Admiring-Lee"), a somewhat frolicsome flute feature ("Sheila's Sunday Song"), and an uplifting send-off ("Slow Café"). Spread out across the program, all four sit comfortably next to their more high-profile neighbors.
Whether presenting their own tunes or upholding and extending the work of others, Heckman and Clark manage to put their collective best foot forward here. The ease of expression projected by this music proves to be its greatest draw.
Admiring-Lee; Ugly Beauty; Some Other Time; Get Happy; Foregone Conclusions; Jeannine; Theme For Ernie; I Should Care; Sheila's Sunday Song; Is That So? The Peacocks; Slow Café.
Steve Heckman: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (5, 11), flute (9); Matt Clark: piano.
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