In a successful marriage, the two partners must strike a balance between having no interests whatsoever in common and meddling in each other's business all the time. Or so I'm told. Anyway, pianists Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb have been married for 25 years, but Solos marks their first album together-and even here, as the name indicates, they trade solos rather than perform duets.
Listening to how similarly they play, you wonder why it took so long for them to collaborate on record. Both achieve a luminous, rounded tone, striking nary a note harshly; where others would simply let fast music run together into a stream, Holcomb sculpts every note in her improvisation "The Pleasures of Motion" into a distinct, ripe droplet. Both play just enough notes to make their point, and no more; Horvitz's supple, limpid take on the ballad "Buttermilk Hill" gains from the lack of clutter. Both can figure out quickly where they're going in a free improvisation; in Holcomb's "Done For" and Horvitz's "Interpretation #1," each finds something to explore and stays one step ahead of where most listeners will be able to follow.
Yet they also bring different, complementary strengths to their playing. Horvitz stays closer to jazz harmonies and shows an occasional dry wit on tracks like "Tired," which contrast effectively with the more abstract melodic lines on Holcomb tracks like "Reno." The ecstatic whispers and evolving harmonies of her expansive suite "Before the Comet Comes" gain effectiveness by being surrounded by her husband's poignant, dissatisfied "Joanna's Solo" and his wry, loving take on "Stars Fell on Alabama." Theirs must be a satisfying marriage, because Solos turns out to be more than the sum of its impressive parts.