Recorded over two days in 1973, this series of duets features eight compositions by Bley, one by his wife Carla Bley, and another by composer/singer Annette Peacock. Bley utilizes both electric and acoustic pianos on these sessions, and his experimentalism is at an all-time high. Conversely, his lyricism has never been more present either. These duets contain within them the same type of communication Bley enjoyed with bassist Gary Peacock, one that is based on a sense of microtonal improvisation, melodic invention, and the thematic development of space. Ørsted Pedersen, given his wide-ranging abilities, is a perfect foil for Bley. His time spent with players like Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, and Sonny Rollins, as well as Albert Ayler, prepared him for virtually anything. So, whether the piece is "Mating of Urgency," a long, modal improvisation based on quarter tones and semi-quavers organized on a tone row, or a straight swinging post-bop number such as "Carla," one of the Bley's signature works, Pedersen holds the line while pushing the pianist with elements from his substantial bag of tricks. On "Strung Out" (as in using strings, not dope), Bley goes to the inside of the piano for expressionistic tonal resources as Pedersen plays in the lowest reaches of the bass' basement with a bow. His lyric line is the balance for the artist's percussive plucking and hammering. When he finally uses the keys, Bley is in emulation mode and bases his solo on four notes from the bottom register and a chordal scale in the middle. Pedersen's overtonal bowing marks Bley's spot in the improvisation and allows for both mode and interval changes within one or two pitches without revealing a seam. The most revealing piece here is Peacock's because of what it brings out in Bley. A piano solo, there is a pronounced emotional tenet that informs his use of spatial figures built upon a simple yet nearly confounding melody. The artist, who has never been accused of being overly emotional in his playing, is almost wistful on the electric piano, bringing the same type of warmth as Return to Forever's Light as a Feather (recorded one year earlier). The tune's lilting, languid melody and tight pitch range hold him to a graceful elegance of tone harmony with few embellishments save of the bridge. It whispers this glorious, heady, and intimate album to a close.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek