“What’s Next?” is the second album in “Randy Klein’s Two Duos” series. The first in the series was 2010’s “Sunday Morning” featuring famed trombonist Chris Washburne and tenor sax player Oleg Kireyev.
The second volume—in what one hopes will become a vast series—brings guitarist Alek Skolnick (of the jazz band Alex Skolnik Trio and thrash metal band Testament) and Boris Kozlov, the two-time Grammy-winning bassist with the Mingus Big Band.
This riveting CD begins with the track entitled “Exalted Kingdom” in an almost-Vince Guaraldi feel. The joyous jump of the united piano and guitar is punctuated by Skolnick’s treatment of the melody until Klein’s piano returns to smooth things out. Klein describes this as a song that has been too long sitting on the piano but, for the listener, it has been worth the wait.
This recording is musical alchemy from the beginning to the very end.
The piece “What’s Next?” is described in Klein’s liner notes as challenging the players to “hear time and experience the space.” Kozlov scores big on this track as he moves from punch to glide, from unison to independence. Klein’s piano is brilliant as he acts as the axis around whom Kozlov rotates.
“Casa China” has the feeling “that it should never end,” according to Klein and I could not agree more. Klein and Skolnik start out in a virtuosic frenzy that drops into sweet melody. The guitar and piano are not so much partners as they are twin strands of a jazz double-helix.
“Dear Charles Mingus” is a gorgeous duo of piano and bass. It is whimsical. It is sweet. It is quite nearly the perfect composition for piano and bass and it is the right musicians playing it.
Alek Skolnik returns for “No” and he provides such a “Wes Montgomery jazz” sound that it is easy to forget that he is a master thrash metal guitarist. The song is almost a lullaby in the simplicity and elegance displayed by Klein and Skolnik. Kozlov and Klein continue the lovely simplicity in “Lark” which is as lyrical as the title suggests. Almost a nocturne in its emotion and movement, “Lark” highlights Klein’s exquisite piano work and Kozlov is in perfect step with him.
“Where’s My Glasses?” is perfectly understandable to anyone who is forced to undertake the daily search. The piece moves logically in a near-search pattern—turning frantic—until the inevitable moment of “Oh, there they are.” The search is undertaken by Klein and Skolnik and, musically, they certainly discover what they were looking to find.
The minuet “Tea for Three” takes the hearer away in its waltzing ¾ meter. “Lilts” is the word Randy Klein uses to describe it. Indeed, it does that. It is charming and dreamy and Kozlov’s bass lines add to the imagery magnificently.
Originally a film score for a documentary film about the author Richard Wright, “Pere La Chaise” is a haunting melody that Klein has long-wanted to use in short form. Klein and Skolnik deliver impressions of questing-and-not-finding. The piece is almost heart-breaking in its composition and performance.
“Inner Voice” follows and is a meditative work full of memory and longing. It is succeeded by the equally-moving “In the Twilight Hours” with Kozlov in the preceding piece and Skolnik in the second. In fact, with “Pere La Chaise”, they form almost a suite.
However, “In the Twilight Hours” may be Klein at his most emotionally evocative with Skolnik partnering brilliantly. It has great moments of delicacy and tenderness.
“Return to Splendor” is a fine and fitting end to such an intriguing and welcome album. The tug between piano and bass is a hallmark of all the duos found on this recording.
The running together and running away between the musicians is always tight and thrilling in the album. There is no weak moment and while the CD may have answered the question “What’s Next?” regarding the first album in the series, it certainly begs the question for the succeeding ones. It is a question worth pondering and worth anticipating.
"What's Next?" is manufactured and distributed under Randy's own Jazzheads label. Downloads are available here: