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Jemeel Moondoc/Connie Crothers: Two

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Jemeel Moondoc (alto saxophone) and Connie Crothers (piano) have recorded prolifically enough to earn greater recognition, yet their work often falls below the radar. Moondoc began playing in Loft-era New York, disappearing in the 9-to-5 world until reappearing in the late ’90s with a host of albums on the Eremite label. His tone and ideas have been compared to Ornette Coleman’s, but he now sounds like a kindred spirit of the late Jimmy Lyons, with a strong vocabulary delivered in a tone that doesn’t lose sight of bop. Crothers has long been associated with the legacy of her mentor Lennie Tristano, though she adds to that clarity a sense of no-holds-barred freedom.

Two was recorded at the pianist’s loft and features six improvisations along with two compositions attributed to Moondoc and to Crothers individually. Jazz duets often get described as “conversations” between the two players, and this session clearly falls into that category. While a topic or two goes on a little too long, the overall discussion yields sharp points and empathetic support. In a nod to his forebears, Moondoc enters on the first track with the three-note intro from Charlie Parker’s “Parker’s Mood.” For further elaboration, his standalone coda on that track almost sounds like friendly explanation of what will come.

By “Improvisation 4,” the duo is tuned in to each other so well the ballad sounds pre-composed. Throughout, the pianist uses various methods to develop the conversation: moving quickly with single-note lines or ascending dissonant chords, and low-end rumbling to boost the alto. When she offers some rubato thunder in the last track, it acts as a climactic finale to a fruitful heart-to-heart.

Originally Published