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Gary Hassay & Ellen Christi: Tribute to Paradise

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Jazz artists who adhere strictly to a free improvising agenda are generally doomed to sacrifice wider recognition. Here are two perfect examples: Ellen Christi is among the finest jazz vocalists in New York. She's made a lovely, intimate duo recording with Gary Hassay, a saxophonist who has all the technique of his best contemporaries, plus a creative sensibility that sets him apart as an artist worth noting.

At times on these improvised pieces the connection between the two is so tight as to imply pre-arrangement, horn and voice moving together in unison and harmony. The recording is unadorned and Christi's voice is served up close and raw. It takes enormous confidence and skill for a singer to do what Christi has done here. Save for an occasional wild burst of exotic, spine-tingling ululation—apparently incited by Hassay's more kinetic passages—Christi sings with gentle grace and deep-reaching creativity.

Hassay puts his instrument down occasionally and vocalizes himself, and these are the disc's most eerily hypnotic pieces. His playing is dexterous and expert, but his highly refined sensitivity and clearly heard sympathy with his partner lift this performance beyond the ordinary.

The time will hopefully come when improvisers of this stature will receive the recognition they deserve. Until then, be among the relative few in on the secret and give an ear to these exemplary artists.

Track Listing: From the Beginning; Anodyne; Circle of Life.

Personnel: Ellen Christi: vocals; Gary Hassay: saxophone.

Title: Tribute to Paradise | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Drimala Records

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