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Hamiet Bluiett/Larry Willis: If Trees Could Talk

No duet encounter is worth its weight in salt if the participants aren’t reading from the same page, and baritone sax master Hamiet Bluiett and pianist Larry Willis operate as if a pair of young siblings sharing the same engrossing book throughout this date. That sense of sharing, give and take further manifests itself in the musical selection chosen to flesh out these 14 vignettes. (The CD title refers to a Bluiett pronouncement at first encounter of the woods surrounding the antebellum, rural Maryland plantation mansion that houses Mapleshade Records.) The music ranges from the brief dissonance of Bluiett’s opening duo with percussionist Asante (a curious inclusion, given the success of the piano-bari theme) through a program of contributions from both players leavened with Monk’s “Ask Me Now” and Coltrane’s “Some Other (Schizophrenic) Blues.”

Bluiett, with the soul of a blues and R&B player and the skill of uncanny range on his cumbersome horn that covers extreme top to resonant bottom, displays his most lyrical side-with the occasional skronk-on this date, not to mention an attractive sense of sheer relaxation that serves the program beautifully. Willis is one of those pianists whose versatility and impressive capacity enhances whatever context he’s called for, but here he plays a largely subordinate role to Bluiett’s big horn that eliminates any chance of train wrecks, giving the date its significant warmth and luster.

Originally Published