Big Two

Red Mitchell / Warne Marsh

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Big Two Review

by Ken Dryden

Bassist Red Mitchell joined forces with tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh for a duo engagement at the Fasching Club in Stockholm, with music from two separate nights being recorded and subsequently issued on two separate CDs. This release combines all of the music in one set. The combination of these two instruments without additional accompaniment is not unheard of, and as Don Byas and Slam Stewart revealed during their meeting at Town Hall in 1945, there are viable possibilities for this pairing if the players are on the same wavelength. Mitchell was a virtuoso bassist who also knew his way around the piano very well, so he was skilled at conversing on his instrument with his partners, rather than just playing traditional lines. The saxophonist -- along with Lee Konitz -- was one of Lennie Tristano's best-known students, so he was adept at creating intricate reworkings of familiar chord changes. That said, most of the material consists of standards and jazz compositions by others, with only one original by either musician (Mitchell's introspective "Undertow," a dazzling reworking of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise." They find surprising new ground with the popular "Lady Be Good" and come up with an inventive route through "You Stepped Out of a Dream," while some of the lesser-known tunes (Jimmy McHugh's "South American Way" and guitarist Billy Bauer's "Background Music") also are of great interest. Even though this is a live recording, the audience is extremely respectful, focusing exclusively on the intimate performances.

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