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Tommy Flanagan/Jaki Byard: The Magic of 2

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If, as anointed by the title of his acclaimed 1989 album, Tommy Flanagan was a Jazz Poet with his impeccable lyrical touch, Jaki Byard was a jazz prophet with his gift for shaping jazz’s future by gazing into its historical past. Teamed for the first and only time as a duo on The Magic of 2, recorded in 1982 at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, the piano greats bask in each other’s definitive style to exhilarating effect.

This latest archival discovery from Resonance, following acclaimed releases by Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans, features Flanagan and Byard on five duets and three solo performances each. As showcased on Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From the Apple,” Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight” and Miles Davis’ “The Theme,” bebop is at the heart of their playing. While Flanagan embodies the form with elegantly shaped, linear phrases, Byard bolsters the infrastructure of the improvisations with his frisky, gospel-tinged, wide-angle attack.

Flanagan, who at the time was still best known as Ella Fitzgerald’s longtime accompanist-not until Jazz Poet did his star rise-plays solo on three Billy Strayhorn tunes. Among them is the wistful, infrequently heard “All Day Long” from Duke Ellington’s …And His Mother Called Him Bill. The free-spirited Byard interpolates “Giant Steps” into Stevie Wonder’s “Send One Your Love,” and takes apart Chuck Mangione’s easy-listening hit “Land of Make Believe” with avant touches. As with Resonance’s other reclamation projects, The Magic of 2 boasts stellar, bell-clear sound, which, considering the music was taken from cassettes, is remarkable.

Originally Published