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Andrew Rathbun and George Colligan: Renderings: The Art of the Duo

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The label “art of the duo” seems to get slapped on every meeting between paired improvisers. It’s a cliché, yet I gotta hand it to saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and pianist George Colligan: Their collaboration is nothing if not artful.

In the olden days, their amalgam of classical music and jazz would’ve been called “third stream.” The duo plays a demanding set of classically inspired pieces that includes adaptations of compositions by impressionist Maurice Ravel and the 20th-century Spanish composer Federico Mompou. Rathbun is a remarkably precise soprano saxophonist. His pitch is dead-on, his control of the instrument and grasp of traditional expressive devices impressive. There’s a touch of Jan Garbarek in his playing, which works out quite well, as Colligan’s exquisite touch and sense of dynamics references Keith Jarrett-and those with good memories recall the rapport Garbarek and Jarrett once shared.

There’s an extraordinary intellectual rigor to this music. Spontaneity is not a defining element. Those who cherish discipline and classic musical values, however, should find much to like.