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Recorded in 1999, Two for the Road features two of the most effective string jazz artists on the planet. As they remind us here, Jennifer Leitham and Jimmy Bruno share a love for the powerful release of expression through music. The blues comes through it. And yet both demonstrate superior technical proficiency on their instruments.
The session begins with reminiscences of Mingus. Cool and comfortable, the duo interprets "Nostalgia in Times Square with a swinging texture that emphasizes its melody. Both artists converse over the tune's chord structure and stretch out individually with a driving demeanor. From walking bass and singing strings to trading fours, they capture the mood accurately.
Jumpin' at the Woodside burns hot and fast as bass and guitar hang this one out to dry. Like the wind blowing through on a rainy day, this piece lets them capture all the excitement in fast and furious bunches. While every note comes through in rapid-fire progression, the edges are rounded so that we're able to feel the soft touch from both bass and guitar.
Leitham's nine-year tenure with Mel Tormé may be partly responsible for the smooth texture of her play, but it seems as if she's always held a high regard for lyrical beauty in her performances. Her solo bass performance of "Out of This World contains double stops and graceful slides that allow the melody to linger. Following that, Tormé's "Born to be Blue ushers in bent notes and seamless phrases that give the duo's performance a vocal-like texture.
Bruno's clear articulation allows him to deliver blindingly fast arpeggios and blistering single-note runs that make the sparks fly. As he and Leitham trade "Ornithology with fingers flying, you can feel the heat wave moving through. Alone Together comes with a lovely samba framework that allows both artists to create a casual mood. "Three in One includes a section where Leitham walks the bass while Bruno tears up the strings with spirits soaring. "Bernie's Tune is presented extraordinarily fast; however, not one note is left behind.
"Isn't it Romantic changes the pace in an exceptionally beautiful affair that features Leitham's delicate bowed melody. Together, the two string jazz artists make this piece weep and cry. The intro to Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road also features Leitham's arco delivery. A classical guitar landscape surrounds the piece with pearly tones that ring true as both bass and guitar explore the lyrical nature of its theme. Through their interpretation of up-tempo burners and slow, romantic melodies, Leitham and Bruno have created a heartfelt session that comes highly recommended.
Track Listing: Nostalgia in Times Square; Manege; Jumpiní at the Woodside; The Left-Handed Blues; Out of this World; Born to be Blue; Ornithology; Alone Together; Two for the Road; Three in One; Isnít It Romantic; Bernieís Tune.
Personnel: Jennifer Leitham: bass; Jimmy Bruno: guitar.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.