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Larry Willis/Paul Murphy: The Powers of Two

Nothing else sounds like a Mapleshade release. Producer/engineer Pierre Sprey records live to two-track analog, with minimal isolation and miking, and with no mixing board, compression or equalization. The objective sonic portrait, with two instruments overlaid in space, requires adjustment. The intricate timbres and intense dynamics of Larry Willis’ piano are startling. If Paul Murphy’s cymbals sound unfamiliar in their hiss and sizzle, it is because other recordings fail to capture these extreme upper harmonics. In such matters, Sprey is not wrong. The rest of the world is.

This is the second volume from a duo session of completely improvised music. On pieces like “Roadmap to Everywhere” and “Gremlins,” Willis’ expenditures of energy, like a man running very hard in place, fail to find a direction. Every performance contains nervous, experimental noodling, but some, like “Sweet Solitude,” provide the unique gratification of lyrical form discovered in the moment.

The revelation of this recording is Murphy. He is a drummer/sound painter who totally trusts his wildest creative impulses. He responds directly to Willis’ forays with a provocative, complex code of his own, then showers Willis’ piano decisions in washes of color and dramatic detail.

The liner notes state that Murphy’s next Mapleshade project will be a solo album. He is one of the very few drummers who might make that concept interesting.

Originally Published