Thursday, February 9, 2012
Talking to Each Other and To the Listener
One can feel their comfort level and hear their friendship on "Conversations" (TUM Records), a 2-CD set that combines Sarmanto's compositions, several on-the-spot improvisations and 2 standards from the team of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this music is one can not easily tell the difference between the "composed" works and the improvised pieces. The program is heavy with ballads but none are ponderous - this is music that pulls one in and allows to get lost in the interplay.
Pieces like "Evening Prayer" unfold slowly, with the deliberate saxophone lines framed by the raindrop-like quality of the piano notes. Sometimes the song starts in a quite mode and then begins to move in fascinating directions. The improvised "...It Happened Today" opens like a haiku yet, before too long, the duo catches fire and the listener is pulled into their hearty interplay. There are several moments when one can hear the influence of McCoy Tyner on Sarmanto; yet he also has an impressionistic side that blends sustained, soft, notes with silence.
The first 3 tracks on CD 2 are like a thick novel with many plots, wondrous twists and turns. "From Nothing" and "No Work Bound Me" are inspired by the work of American-born poet Rika Lesser, with the former piece are forceful ballad that has a rich melody line wonderful support from Sarmanto. The pianist displays a fine range of emotions and styles on the second piece, his articulated lines weaving in and around the the more declaratory tenor. Meanwhile, "Free Souls" is a powerful improvisation, with Tyner-esque chords and runs from the piano and often fiery lines from Aaltonen alternating with more conversational phrases.
There is lot to digest in these "Conversations", much more than a listener would want to take in in one sitting. Spend some serious time with these songs, allow them to soak into your mind and being - chances are good you will be moved by the experience, moved in a positive way. For more information, go to www.tumrecords.com.
"Upper West Side" is a positive experience from beginning to end. By returning to the blues roots of 1930's piano jazz, Ehud Asherie shows his continuing maturity as a player - his playing throughout command's one attention. Harry Allen makes no bones about his roots or "throwback" tenor style. He also loves melody and his solos are often quite hummable. Together, they sound as if they are having the best of times; the listener should laugh, sing along and tap his/her feet. What depression? This music will drive your "blues" right out of the house. To find out more, go to www.posi-tone.com.