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Kenny Drew/Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen : Duo

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This is about as convivial as jazz gets, and if you like listening to music that feels like it’s talking to you, Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen are close to ideal companions. Which makes sense, given the rapport so in evidence on these sessions from April 1973 and mid-winter 1974. First, one notices the bass, with its bottomless, ringing tone; on the opening “I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro” it’s a paragon of luminosity, as bright and buoyant as the instrument can be, and nimble, too.

Pedersen’s cleanly articulated lines have a cheery pace to them, allowing Drew to get a touch lower on the piano, which sometimes takes on an organ-like quality with sustaining clouds of notes, as on the cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave.” For Drew’s “Duo Trip,” piano and bass make like some hybrid instrument, bounding up and back down the riff until Drew saunters out on his own for a few bars, prompting Pedersen to take his turn.

There’s a decent helping of “softer” material here-“My Shining Hour,” “A Child Is Born,” “It Might as Well Be Spring”-but that only makes the funkier moments all the funkier, like when our duo decides to light out into rhythm-and-blues territory for a jam on “Hushabye.” Pedersen’s walking bass might as well have been flown in from an old Animals or Them cut, while Drew conflates earthy gospel figures with greasy, chitlin’ circuit-type chords. When Drew gives up the riff so that he and Pedersen can improvise a few of their own, mid-song, it’s tough not to conclude that there wasn’t a conversation these guys couldn’t expand upon.

Originally Published