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Gary Bartz/Peter Leitch: The Montreal Concert

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Guitar/saxophone duos are rare in the jazz world, primarily due to the difficulty of keeping everything moving without having the bottom fall out when it comes time for the guitarist to improvise. One successful recorded example was the Zoot Sims/Joe Pass match up Blues for Two (Pablo, 1982), but then Pass had years of experience as a solo performer under his belt. On the opener to The Montreal Concert, “The Touch of Your Lips,” guitarist Peter Leitch does an admirable job of supporting saxophonist Gary Bartz, supplying a complex but organic network of slippery chords and walking bass lines. When it comes time to solo, he opts for single-notes, which Bartz masterfully complements with counterpoint that alternates between long tones and more active phrases. In contrast, “Well You Needn’t” fares less well, although it has some fine playing in places. After a Monkish guitar intro and alto reading of the head, Bartz launches into a nice, angular solo supported by chords and moving bass lines. But when it’s Leitch’s turn, something just seems to be missing, even though Bartz does his best to provide a foundation. Then again, Leitch’s vibrant “Some Other Samba,” which begins with a cool introduction and has an active overall harmonic structure, is more successful due to the increased number of chords that he works into his improvisation.

Leitch deserves credit for attempting such a potentially pitfall-laden project as a sax-guitar duo, but by focusing on single-note-based work, no matter how fluid, instead of more chord-oriented playing The Montreal Concert is filled with mixed results.