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Heavy Metal Duo: Work Songs and Other Spirituals

AAJ Staff By

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The Heavy Metal Duo's Work Songs and Other Spirituals is the documentation of one of most unique duos working in jazz and perhaps in jazz history. Tubaist Bob Stewart has almost single-handedly expanded and redefined the tuba's role, and trombonist Ray Anderson covers the better documented and more extensive history of his horn with traces of Vic Dickenson and Trummy Young (two of his earliest influences) and even hints of "Tricky" Sam Nanton in his more contemporary and individual approach. His plunger mute playing—he's one of the best and most under-rated in the business—and long tones ("Time After Time") noticeably emphasize every tremolo and breath and make him nothing short of the Ben Webster of the trombone.

From the first notes, it becomes immediately evident that we are listening to masters, particularly of the melodic and rhythmic variety. It is, however, their variation of tempos, circular breathing technique and incorporation of Albert Mangelsdorff-like harmonic wizardry that puts this release over the top as one of the best releases of the year thus far.

Six Anderson originals, one traditional spiritual and two standards, including the session chestnut, "East St. Louis Toodle-loo," comprise a session that admirably includes not a single fade-out at the end of any tune played. The simple Ellington theme is interpreted here with exquisite creative subtlety and the level of empathy between the two musicians—as heard in their seamless alternating of musical roles is not only rarely heard these days by a pair of instrumentalists, but is essential to the success of such a meeting. These virtuosos continuously rotate positions and revolve around one another, from playing lead lines to a bass substitute accompaniment role and back. While maintaining their lyrical side, each exploits their instrument's full range, going beyond sheer technical brilliance, venturing further into uncharted sonic possibilities, previously unimagined from either instrument, let alone both.

The Heavy Metal Duo's music is fun and not only inspires foot-tapping, head-shaking and even dancing, but likewise can be appreciated by closed-eyed listeners intent on noticing every ounce of subtlety in each nook and cranny.

Personnel: Ray Anderson: trombone; Bob Stewart: tuba.

Year Released: 2004 | Style: Modern Jazz


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