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June 2004

Larry Willis/Paul Murphy
The Powers of Two
Mapleshade Productions

The piano-drums duet is still enough of a rare bird to draw our attention. The Powers of Two (Mapleshade) brings together pianist Larry Willis and percussionist Paul Murphy for an encounter marked by a lyrical yet explorative edge, replete with drama and mystery. On eight spontaneously composed pieces, the duo employs subtlety and carefully calibrated tonal shadings to make their strongest points. Willis, one of the most dependable mainstream stylists of the past four decades-recent high profile gigs include stints with Roy Hargrove and the Fort Apache Band-displays a surprising affinity for less structured improvisation.

Murphy's CV reveals his comfort with free jazz; he's worked with William Parker, Charles Gayle and Kidd Jordan, among others. Exhibiting admirable restraint, Murphy extracts shaded hues from his cymbals, shying away from a full force drum attack. Even when things heat up during "Interlock East" and "Hi-Jack," Murphy keeps himself advantageously in check.

These two are out to make affecting music together. By listening so intently to each other, they draw us near as well.

Originally published in June 2004
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