Interplay, a nine-track album of standards and originals played as duets, is Dartmouth educator and talented tenor sax player Fred Haas' first album as a soloist. He chose his partner wisely. Gene Bertoncini has had a host of albums to his credit, notably those classic duets he recorded with bass player Michael Moore. Haas cites several sax players as influences including Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, and Sonny Stitt, and all of them can be heard throughout this CD. On the opening cut "Tangerine," Haas is closer to the biting sound of the bopsters Adderley and Stitt. Contrast this to "Like Someone in Love," where he mellows his tone a la Getz (when Getz was in a lyrical mood). Haas' sax assumes a fuller tone, closer to Hawkins' sound, on "Samantha's Blues" (which Haas composed).
The communication between these players borders on the amazing. To make any duet work, especially saxophone and guitar, there has to be a tight bond of purpose between the players as to the musical objectives being sought. One objective for this album is to make the playing mellow, relaxed, and pleasant. Even on uptempo numbers like "I Can't Give You Anything but Love" and "Tangerine," Haas and Bertoncini are at ease, with no intention of turning this into a blowing session or trying to prove how they fast can play. Haas' saxophone is complimented by Bertoncini's sparse, very clean-sounding guitar, further contributing to an atmosphere where rigidity and tightness are absent. There is considerable back and forth between the players. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Jobim's "Once I Loved," which recalls the seminal Getz/Charlie Byrd bossa nova sessions.
Haas' initial entry as a soloist on the recording scene portends well for his future. His ability to bring to his playing the influences of the great tenor men who have preceded him while adding his own imprint to the music should provide him more recording opportunities which, in turn, will bring more pleasure to the listening public.