Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry

For the fifth time in a quarter-century, these two distinguished veterans have joined forces for a sax/bass duets album. What you get is pretty much what you’d expect: A menu of standards, served with reliable skill and unpretentious style, provides the setting for the latest installment of an ongoing, wide-ranging chat between old friends.

Person’s tenor tone is smooth, warm and easygoing, and the duo format brings out his romantic side. For proof, look no further than the bubbly solo in “But Beautiful,” which also draws to our attention the vast resounding spaces between his notes. Carter, meanwhile, is in complete charge of the music’s harmony and rhythm, well aware of the manifold accompaniment possibilities each tune presents, and able to move seamlessly between an astounding number of those possibilities. Within a few seconds during the recapitulation of the head on “Young and Foolish,” for example, he establishes a buoyant walking pattern, harmonizes with Person twice, lays down some tricky triplets and punctuates the end of a measure with a deftly executed downward-sliding double stop-all while holding such a tight rein on the time that you could almost swear you heard a drummer behind him.

In keeping with the conversational vibe of the album, it’s no surprise that the two players are fond of repeating, answering and toying with each other’s phrases. Eventually, at the end of “Can’t We Be Friends?,” they trade places; Person becomes the rhythm-keeper, playing a simple repetitive riff while Carter goes for broke, plucking out nutty glissandi and big beefy chords. Here as elsewhere, the predominant feeling is an overarching sense of fun.

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