Same church, same pew, some recording: Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and pianist Eric Reed spend a lot of time interpreting spiritual themes on WE 2, their second duets recording, but that’s not the only reason their pairing proves so winning. Soulful and spacious renderings of pop standards also rank high on the list, Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s “My Ship” being a prime example. And then there’s the duo’s salute to Thelonious Monk, an increasingly animated but typically uncluttered medley comprising “Monk’s Mood” and “Think of One.”
You won’t find Reed eager to display his well-documented virtuosity on these 11 tracks. That’s partly because many of the tunes, including the spirituals “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and “Have Thine Own Way,” are firmly rooted in chord-resounding gospel traditions. But it’s also because Reed is obviously aware that this is the sort of session that requires musicians to complement, and closely listen to, each other. Even so, there’s no mistaking Reed’s exceptional technique or, as the performances of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?” and Duke Ellington’s “The Feeling of Jazz” colorfully illustrate, the ease with which he evokes vintage keyboard sounds.
Gordon, whether singing or growling through his horn, projects a consistently expressive tone, and though most of these compositions don’t invite playful moments, there are some witty exchanges, plus a relaxed, unabashedly old-school vocal duet on the aforementioned Crescent City anthem.