Jessica Williams: Alone Together

Sometime after Williams recorded this absorbing extended live version of "Alone Together," she surprisingly wrote the following on her website: "I've probably played 'Alone Together' for the last time, but the last time I played it, I forgot entirely about those extra bars tacked onto the A sections—the major-minor thing. It's one of those tunes that has fascinated me for a long time and then suddenly I lost interest. Maybe I just thought I liked it. Looking back, I don't think I ever did." Hopefully she'll reconsider, but until then we can enjoy this classic Williams' track (not to mention her previously recorded renditions), with a state-of-the-art rhythm team of Ray Drummond and Victor Lewis.

Williams typically breaks up the rhythm before flowing unaccompanied into the melody and embellishing it with interesting harmonic alterations. This leads to interlacing contrapuntal lines that reach a satisfying resolution signaling the entry of Drummond and Lewis at the three-minute mark. She now adds long, serpentine runs to the mix, and for a time utilizes a continuous and varying left-hand bass line that nearly makes Drummond superfluous. When Williams initiates a sustained swinging medium-tempo groove, this allows bass and drums to finally lock gears with the pianist as she continues to explore the many nuances of the elegant Dietz-Schwartz standard. Her lavish block chords set the stage for Drummond's resolutely lyrical solo. Williams' swift, swirling interlude that follows is thrilling, and her deftly elaborate coda gives way to well-deserved, generous applause from the audience at Yoshi's.

April 15, 2009 · 0 comments


Michael Higgins: Alone Together

Dear Reader: I have no idea when you will be reading this review. But as I write it this seems to be my week to write about great but understated guitarists. Maybe there is a movement afoot and I am missing it. Or maybe I will start it. Who knows? At any rate, Michael Higgins manages to impress with his prodigious chops even if his volume is only turned up to 5 and his treble control is switched to "off." He can play seamless melodic runs at speeds beyond comprehension. When he needs to swing it with chord progressions, he can do that too. He is ably assisted by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum. At times it appears that Anderson and Nussbaum are mixed higher than the lead instrument. Don't test me on that though, as I have no sound-level meter. But in any case, "Alone Together" is satisfyingly presented in an understated but wholly effective way. This trio is full of enough tasty chops that I would wait in line to see them. And I hate lines.

October 22, 2008 · 0 comments


Planet Safety: Alone Together

Here is a collective trio, much like The Bad Plus, EST or Medeski Martin & Wood, where no player is the official leader. Yet the mastermind behind this project seems to be drummer Bob Gullotti, who started playing with bassist Dave Zinno back in the early 1990s. The affinity between these two musicians is obvious on this track and throughout their debut CD. The synchronicity between bass and drums is exceptional and, to some degree, the most salient virtue of this recording. Pianist Genovese dances and floats over their perfect marriage, and like a teenager at home makes his presence felt in both loud and subtle ways, yet somehow strengthens the family accord. This is a promising trio and would make a dynamic rhythm section -- I'd like to hear them matched up with a top-drawer horn player.

August 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Joe Lovano & Hank Jones: Alone Together

Seldom was a CD more aptly named. This is truly a Joyous Encounter. I would be hard pressed to name a tenor saxophonist of the current era who constructs better solos, phrase by phrase, than Joe Lovano, as he demonstrates again on this track. It is sheer aural pleasure to hear him in such an under-produced yet well-conceived setting. And if anyone knows how to accompany a reed player and contribute his own estimable solos, it is Hank Jones, who has backed (to name a few) Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Zoot Sims, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and Johnny Hodges, over the years. What higher praise could one offer than to say that this new-millennium collaboration is worthy to stand alongside these earlier classics?

July 30, 2008 · 0 comments


Lee Konitz & Grace Kelly: Alone Together

Few saxophonists are more adept at horn counterpoint than Lee Konitz. I cherish the classic recordings of Konitz crossing saxes with Warne Marsh with the dash and verve with which action-movie stars cross swords. It was almost a new genre: cool jazz swashbuckling. Shiver me timbers, those were the days! But venerable duelists need to defend their territory when each new combatant comes to town. In this instance, the new face is teenager Grace Kelly, one of the most touted young saxophonists in jazz. She matches Konitz line for line in this unaccompanied duet. But there is more "alone" than "together" in this version of "Alone Together," and more respectful horn conversation than parry and thrust. The two altoists wait until the final 30 seconds of the track before matching wits in counterpoint. The moment is potent, but all too brief. I demand a rematch.

July 27, 2008 · 0 comments


Jim Hall & Ron Carter: Alone Together

The very title to the song and CD -- "Alone Together" -- promises an intimate duet. And the two musicians in question, guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ron Carter, are a perfect pairing. This is chamber jazz of the highest order. Carter takes the opening melody statement and spins it out with a lazy elegance. Hall follows with a tasty solo that moves from smart single note lines to succinct chords. Then he shifts into a four-to-the-bar accompaniment to Carter's melodic improvisation. There were many far more boisterous bands during this Age of Fusion, but Carter & Hall were one of the best match-ups of the era, and this recording captures them at top form.

May 04, 2008 · 1 comment


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