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Multiple Reviews

Two Masterful Duos (Night and Day)


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Sachal Vasandani and Romain Collin
Still Life
Edition Records

While the first year of COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Sachal Vasandani and Romain Collin turned sudden isolation into figurative gold. The simple duo album Midnight Shelter (Edition, 2021) was a rich sleeper that proved to continue getting better with time. With the epidemic hardly slowing down over the following couple years, it's fitting that their music kept its inner core of connection and reassurance as well. Following such a work of quiet beauty, it's no bad thing that Still Life is much the same, only more so.

The song selection is again all over the map. Vasandani's warm baritone brings tunes from the likes of Simon and Garfunkel right into the same fold as Billie Eilish and Patti Labelle, with time for the odd detour into old-time American folk or early-noughties Europop. Again there's a fresh take on an iconic jazz staple with lyrics it never originally had (although this time they borrow the words from Meredith d'Ambrosio's late-'90s cover of "Blue in Green" rather than adding their own). The vibe of late-night quiet is still there and even deeper. Collin employs a good-quality, less-battered piano than he did last time, and the duo takes advantage of its resonance to make the room's own hush a vital part of the sound.

If there's any drawback, it's arguably the relative lack of self-penned tracks—Vasandani's opener "No More Tears" hits a particular pitch of wistfulness to suit the mood and the circumstances. For all the beautiful reinvention they bring to the established material (see a surprisingly jaunty read on Peter Gabriel's "Washing of the Water" that still keeps the central gospel warmth), Still Life's three originals show an adept grasp of songcraft that stands alongside the classics. The times can always use more of this kind of stillness.

Chris Allard and Ross Stanley
Perdido Records

For a recording titled after islands and/or turtles (the name is a bit versatile), Chris Allard and Ross Stanley don't come out slow or sluggish in the least. Tortugas has them skipping and romping with enough energy for a full combo, even without anyone else on board. Their brisk, happy dialogue makes for a tropical daydream as sunny as a springtime picnic right on the water. The vibe is set in the first seconds with the two ambling in step like longtime fellow travelers—which of course they are, having racked up over two decades of shows and sessions in all kinds of groups.

Although it's been much more rare for them to play as a self-contained unit, their easygoing chemistry lets them stretch out in perfect comfort. Stanley's piano often provides the rhythm while the two smoothly take turns skipping out for solos, sometimes switching every couple bars just for the fun of it. The title track makes a blissful extended drift for a well-placed breather, but for the most part the album never stops skipping and sparkling.

Allard's rhythmic steel-picking flits across the frets with the ease of a bird—or perhaps more often a hyper bumblebee—sometimes adding some airy slide for a little more color. Nonetheless there's a sharp design to all the flights and turns, and the pair's brisk, twining lines never fall out of step for a moment. It's a set of not-quite-abstract pieces somewhere between jazz and folk (garnished with judicious dashes of blues or boogie), not built around structures so much as flowing shapes that paint a series of moods. Anyone can hear what they like in it, although it'll most likely be something bright and carefree.

Tracks and Personnel

Still Life

Tracks: No More Tears; I Love You; Sound of Silence; Can't Make You Love Me; Blue in Green; Freight Train; If Only You Knew; Someone Somewhere; Latch; Let It Go; How Could We Be; Washing of the Water.

Personnel: Sachal Vasandani: vocals; Romain Collin: piano.


Tracks: Fellini's Waltz; Use Your Imagination; Waltz for Libby; Jive Coffee; Critter; Willow Weep for Me; Tortugas; See the Pyramid; Luiza; Grand Lament.

Personnel: Chris Allard: guitars; Ross Stanley: piano.

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