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Larry Coryell and Kenny Drew, Jr.: Duality

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This intimate duet session was brought together by the good providence of pianist Kenny Drew Jr. moving from New York to Central Florida, where guitarist Coryell already resides. A Tampa promoter got them together for a gig and sparks flew, revealing the promise of greater things to come from these two virtuosos. And Scott Elias followed up by offering a recording date for them on his Orlando-based label. Rather than treading lightly on the gentle, introspective territory that Bill Evans and Jim Hall covered on Undercurrent and Intermodulation, this copasetic duo swings forcefully and unapologetically, primarily due to Drew’s unrelentingly powerful left hand and Coryell’s penchant for blues-soaked abandon.

They open with a buoyant, conversational version of Horace Silver’s “Silver’s Serenade,” which has Drew dealing with authority while comping and soloing and Coryell liberally alluding to Wes Montgomery in his masterful use of octaves. Drew’s lovely “Farmer’s Waltz” (not for Art Farmer, but for a friend of his who is actually a farmer) is the closest thing that these two come to the more delicate Evans-Hall aesthetic-perhaps their answer to “Skating in Central Park” (from Undercurrent), but more inherently driving.

Their burning rendition of “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” which makes a clever shift into a Latin rhythm midway through, is probably closer to an Oscar Peterson-Herb Ellis aesthetic than Evans-Hall, while Coryell’s jauntily swinging “Szabodar” (dedicated to Hungarian musicians Gabor Szabo and Aladar Pege) is a chopsbuster in every sense of the word, fueled by Drew’s remarkable momentum. Drew’s “A Silent War” is a somber piece somewhat reminiscent of Silver’s “Lonely Woman,” while Coryell’s contrapuntal, classically influenced “Oil on Water,” recorded during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is the most dissonant and demanding piece here. Coryell also offers the overdubbed showcase “Duality: Nenad’s Sonata,” which he performs on both acoustic and electric guitars.

For sheer kicks, Drew and Coryell turn in a rambunctious rendition of Charles Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square” and a blues-drenched “Moanin’.” And their take on Drew’s “Goodbye Mr. Jones” (for Hank Jones) is a sheer delight.

Originally Published