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Terry Adams, Marshall Allen: Ten by Two

NRBQ pianist and Thelonious Monk disciple Terry Adams and alto saxophonist and Sun Ra Arkestra leader Marshall Allen recorded the live duo performances that comprise Ten by Two in 1996 and ’97. While Adams and Allen connect and have a great time together on tunes by Ellington, Monk, Ra and even Bacharach and David, there are moments where they’re doing nothing more than hamming it up.

“Prelude to a Kiss” begins the album, and Adams sets the mood by punctuating the delicate melody with thunderous Monk-like clusters. For a person who has cited Johnny Hodges as an early influence, Allen avoids any reference to the Ellington veteran’s signature piece by entering with a shrill squeak and sustaining an unhinged mood throughout his solo. Chewing the scenery is fine sometimes but when Adams launches into heavy-handed comping a few choruses in, things start to sound a little too clever. Similarly, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” sounds like it’s played more for yuks than for exploring its melodic possibilities. On “Friday the 13th” Allen stumbles through the theme, and it’s hard to tell if this results from artistic license or lack of preparation.

Not everything comes off that way, though. The duo gets down to business on three Adams originals, including the stride blues “Hey Little Brother,” which balances the frenzy and structure. “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” appears toward the end of the disc, acting like a grounded counterpoint to the opening Ellington excursion.

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