Twenty-five years before recording their new duo album, almost to the day, Aki Takase and David Murray recorded Blue Monk, on which they explore some of the hidden dimensions of Thelonious Monk via four of his tunes. On Cherry-Sakura, they get back on that bicycle built for two with an exuberant take on Monk’s “Let’s Cool One.” While Murray charismatically toys with the melody on bass clarinet, Takase vigorously connects Monk to early piano masters, like her hero Fats Waller, with her rolling stride patterns. It’s such an infectious performance, you may want to hit the repeat button in blissful retreat from the outside world.
The rest of Cherry-Sakura consists of originals by either Murray or the Berlin-based Takase (who at this point in her illustrious career deserves to be far better known on these shores). Murray has rarely been in more gorgeous, Ben Webster-ish form on tenor saxophone than he is on “To A.P. Kern,” dedicated to the subject of a famous love poem by Pushkin, and Takase’s “Nobuko,” a lovely ballad, in memory of her mother, to which she applies a spare classical touch.