The discovery of previously unknown recordings by deceased master musicians is always a celebratory occasion albeit one laced with bittersweet sentiments. It is a reminder of their current absence while allowing a rare glimpse into a priceless moment in the past.
Resonance Records’ release of Tommy Flanagan and Jaki Byard’s live set at the legendary San Francisco club the Keystone Korner was recorded a year before the venue permanently shut its doors. It is aptly titled The Magic of 2 as these immensely talented pianists create spontaneous alchemy both in their duets and solo takes.
Saxophonist Charlie Parker’s standard “Scrapple From the Apple” has both men embellishing the melody and innovating on the chords of the tune. Their dynamic improvisation simultaneously borrows from the Harlem stride tradition and flirts with freer styles while maintaining a robust sense of swing. In brief it is an apt homage to Parker’s legacy.
Trumpeter Miles Davis penned “The Theme” becomes a clever, crisp and stimulating ad lib dialogue that is melodic and bluesy at times and boppishly fast at others. Byard and Flanagan pepper the tune with musical quotes from the jazz canon and with delightfully dense and angular lines.
Flanagan’s lyricism blossoms fully on the unaccompanied, achingly beautiful rendition of pianist Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For”. His contemplative tone and flowing arpeggios crash gently against his own poetic and complex rhythms.
Flanagan sits out flugelhornist Chuck Mangione composition “Land of Make Belief”. Byard deftly deconstructs the usually symphonic piece with his wonderfully dissonant and edgy extemporization. His percussive chords create a dark an expectant ambience that nevertheless maintains a subtly whimsical touch.
This intriguing time capsule also comes with detailed and informative liner notes that include essays by Jaki Byard’s daughter Diane and pianists Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap among others.
With The Magic of 2 Resonance, one of the few non-for profit music labels, has issued an engrossing and important slice of history that is at once gratifying and nostalgic
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