Irish-born, Swiss-bred, Christy Doran is among the least heard -- in the U.S. at least -- yet most innovative guitarists on either side of the Atlantic. His many bands and guitar duos have taken to stages across the globe as either a collaborator or a sideman. But this date, in a sense, is all his. These very intimate, and often humorous, duo improvisations with a host of innovative musicians create a gem of an album, one that features a stunning array of musical styles and expressions, yet all characterized by the singular, disciplined talent of Doran. On "Beyond Words," Doran and Marty Ehrlich move through a short, slippery Delta-styled blues into an off-Basie jazz mode where Doran's guitar dictates interval and Ehrlich claims the mode. They don't sweep around each other so much as play through the itinerant voicings created by the microtonalities of each instrument -- and swing on top of it! On "The Warm Up," Doran and Ray Anderson slide through bebop phraseology toward frenetic harmonics based on major and augmented chords. Anderson strikes out first with lines that quote both J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller as Doran trades him a Frippian counterpoint -- and via a delay box, plays double counterpoint to his own guitar! "Spiral" with Urs Leimgruber is the monolith on this set. Fifteen-plus minutes of guttural groans, shifting timbres, collapsing overtones, and shimmering harmonics whipped into a spacey intensity that is almost unbearable. Leimgruber is a fiery soprano player. He's sophisticated, inventive, and passionate. Doran's sounds here create an ominous orchestral tension as Leimgruber ghosts his way through in mournful phrases and sonant moans. Hank Roberts' cello is as painterly as Doran's guitar. Sound upon sound, textured ambiences, and chorale lines emanate from both of them on "Song for Sonny." Hendrixian feedback and droning melodies carry the two through each other's voices, creating an openness of intervallic wonder and delight. Doran's Phoenix is an astounding showcase of the colors, textures, tones, and diverse abilities of one of the world's most original guitarists.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek