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Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband: Tor & Vale

Mark Sullivan By

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Virtuoso guitarist Mark Wingfield was last heard leading a trio on Tales From The Dreaming City (MoonJune Records, 2018). He and pianist Gary Husband may have never played duets together before, but the results sound like it was inevitable—a fated meeting. Opener "Kittiwake" is the first of Wingfield's compositions, a lyrical legato guitar line over a vaguely martial rhythm on the piano. Wingfield lays out for Husband's lovely piano solo, which leads seamlessly into a guitar solo. The piece ends in a cloud of reverberant guitars with sparse piano accompaniment. The other four composed pieces take a similar tack, although with increasingly free interplay. "The Golden Thread" ends in an extended duo conversation which becomes more and more pointillist.

The title tune is the first of three improvisations in the set, which together account for a little more than half of the total running time. They are the longest tracks, and clearly demonstrate the degree of empathy the pair found in each other's playing. It comes to a thunderous climax with playing inside the piano, then features a fleet dialog before finally fading out on Wingfield's atmospheric soundscape. "Shape Of Light" is a delicate, rubato exploration, with both players leaving lots of space.

The third improvisation, "Silver Sky," another lovely rubato filigree, is followed by the composed finale "Vaquita," a winding melody supported by triumphant piano chords. Wingfield's ecstatic, highly processed sound is hard to imagine without electronics; while Husband employs only unmodified acoustic piano (which has become a significant musical voice for him, after initially becoming known as a drummer: an unusual doubling, but no less effective).

Nonetheless their playing recalls the lyricism of other guitar/piano duos, going back to pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall, first heard on Undercurrent (United Artists, 1962); and pianist Fred Hersch with guitarist Bill Frisell on Songs We Know (Nonesuch Records, 1998)—had Frisell employed his usual electronic effects and looping, there may have even been a similar sound. More recently there were two albums by guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau, starting with Metheny Mehldau (Nonesuch Records, 2006). But the predecessor with the most similar sonic signature would have to be pianist Richie Beirach and guitarist John Abercrombie's Emerald City (Pathfinder Records, 1987). Abercrombie's guitar synthesizer contrasted with Beirach's piano in a similar way to the electronically treated guitar and piano blend here, and there is a combination of original compositions and improvisations as well.

Yet another magical Casa Murada session, Tor & Vale represents a significant entry in the improvisational guitar/piano canon, as well as an easily recommended MoonJune release.

Track Listing: Kittiwake; The Golden Thread; Night Song; Tor & Vale; Shape Of Light; Tryfan; Silver Sky; Vaquita.

Personnel: Mark Wingfield: guitar, soundscapes; Gary Husband: acoustic piano.

Title: Tor & Vale | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: MoonJune Records

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