Pieter Ostrander/Mike Schiffer: Velvet Heat

Veteran musicians, tenor saxophonist Pieter Ostrander and pianist Mike Schiffer, lead a diverse session of 15 soothing original sketches drawn from their vast backgrounds and experiences. Recorded on various dates during 1996-’97, sound quality is uneven, yet passion for their melodic creations is not. From classical-tinged brevities, to blues, to free-form improvisations, most of the pensive tunes feature the interactive duo.

Things briefly pick up on track five, “Bistro Haze,” when they are joined by harpist Theresa Mango, bassist Ram Miles, drummer Randy Kaye, to exchange understated, freely-improvised vignettes. On track seven, the quartet performs “January Abstract,” a stark, creeping chiller no doubt inspired by the Massachusetts weather on that recording date (January 29, 1997). Mango joins the full group again on the brief (3:39) impressionistic finale, “Splashes.” While listening to these permutations requires an open mind, perhaps the best way to understand such musical brevities (all under six minutes) is to liken them to animated short tales woven by colorfully expressive storytellers.