Guillermo Klein and Aaron Goldberg were each coming off particularly impressive releases when the labelmates and longtime friends decided to team up on Bienestan. Klein’s Domador de Huellas was an ambitious interpretation of the compositions of fellow Argentinean Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamón, while Bostonian Goldberg balanced bop and ballads on Home, which earned him comparisons to the likes of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett for its inventive harmonic and melodic balance.
With Goldberg on piano and Klein sticking to Fender Rhodes on Bienestan, complementary playing overrides any temptation to compete; only two tracks here, “Airport Fugue” and “Implacable,” both penned by Klein, are rendered as duets, and the two keyboards entwine seamlessly. For the remainder, acoustic bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland add breadth and take the burden off the co-leaders to fill in the open space. Two Charlie Parker covers, “Blues for Alice” and “Moose the Mooche,” are particular highlights: The former’s bluesy swing and the latter’s angular rhythms give both Klein and Goldberg opportunities to provide direction and sync up impeccably. Guest Miguel Zénon lends his muscular alto saxophone to both of those tracks as well as three Klein originals, each of which also features Chris Cheek on tenor or soprano sax. Among those, “Human Feel” is the most potent, each player looping around one another in short bursts that at once seem endless and mesmerizing.
Bookending the track list are two low-key interpretations of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein III’s “All the Things You Are” that feature only minimal participation from the rhythm section. While the full-band tracks are inspired and often exciting, those quieter tunes spotlighting the two keyboardists make one hope that a true duet recording will someday follow.