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John Law / Mark Pringle: This is

Jakob Baekgaard By

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Traditionally, the art of the piano duo has been linked to classical music, and almost every significant classical composer, from Mozart to Maurice Ravel, has written music for two pianos. In jazz, however, this particular medium is somewhat rare, and although Bill Evans recorded Further Conversations with Myself (PolyGram, 1967), where he overdubbed himself on piano, decidedly pure piano duos in jazz have been scarce, with An Evening with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea: In Concert (Columbia, 1978) being one of the more well-known highlights of the idiom.

Recently, however, with genres being dissolved and more and more classical pianists turning to jazz and vice versa, there has been a new blossoming of piano duos linked to jazz. Brad Mehldau's and Kevin Hays' Modern Music (Nonesuch, 2011) and Chick Corea's and Stefano Bollani's Orvieto (ECM, 2011) are only two of the most prominent examples of the newfound interest in the art form, but one of the strongest efforts comes from the partnership of British pianist John Law and his former student, Mark Pringle, with their album—simply titled This is—taking an encyclopedic journey through the rhythms and textures of their instruments.

It all begins with a bold reading of the third movement of J.S Bach's "Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C." Here, the two pianists make each note stand crystal clear, while lines sing in fugal harmony, balancing rhythm, tempo and melody in a perfect manner.

From the virtuosity and polyphonic joy of Bach, the geographical location shifts from Germany to Brazil and the sun-baked joie de vivre of Lyle Mays' "Chorinho," whose dancing rhythms twirl around with breathtaking elegance. In this dance, Law and Pringle never step on each other's toes, but manage to retain both intimacy and space among the unfolding notes.

While a broad scope of musical tradition is embraced on the album, with tunes covering everything from J.S. Bach to Cole Porter, the real highlights of the album are the originals. Among them, the title tunes—Pringle's "This"; and Law's "Is"—are especially fascinating, both combining the vocabularies of jazz and classical in a singular and seamless way, coalescing improvisational surprise and a deep elegiac musicality that pays attention to every detail of their instruments' sound.

This is ends up being quite an apt description; this music could only be played by John Law and Mark Pringle.

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