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Houston Person & Ron Carter : Just Between Friends

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Just Between Friends, bassist Ron Carter and tenor saxophonist Houston Person’s first studio duo encounter since Dialogues in 2002, boasts a spot-on album title. A palpable sense of intimacy, ease and near-telepathic intuition practically radiates from the disc.

A comfort zone is established by way of standards, tunes like “Lover Man,” “Alone Together” and “You’ve Changed,” that both men may have played an infinite number of times throughout their careers. But in the hands of two great instrumentalists, a perfectly constructed song, no matter its age, holds the same appeal as a favored meal. Taking their time, savoring sturdy melodies and ingenious changes, allowing the sheer beauty of their respective tones to score major points, letting offhand virtuosity speak for itself, this duo practically luxuriates in generous music-making.

A swing-to-bop stylist now in the golden age of his artistic maturity, Person couldn’t sound more relaxed, more willing to impart emotion through the warmth of his sound and the judicious construction of a perfectly devised phrase. Carter, for his part, carries the load of rhythm, harmony and unaccompanied soloist with a grace that will only surprise those that haven’t thrilled to the best of his five-decades-long work.

Old-school Carter fans will also rejoice at the unadorned richness of his recorded tone. Engineer Rudy Van Gelder has expertly captured the oaken depth of Carter’s instrument, set free from the oppressive amplification that can make this masterful player sound as if he’s attacking a set of uniformly tuned rubber bands.