If a city has any type of jazz scene, chances are that there are some local musicians who play together a lot but don't get around to recording their live performances right away. In Boston, a perfect example is the David Zoffer/Adam Larrabee duo. Acoustic pianist Zoffer and guitarist Larrabee have been performing together as a duo since 1994, but it was 2002 before their collaborations finally became commercially available on CD. Courage in Closeness: Live in Boston focuses on two of their concerts at the New England Conservatory (one in 1999, the other in 2000), and their performances show just how cohesive a duo they are. Through the album, Zoffer and Larrabee enjoy a strong rapport -- it isn't hard to see why they enjoy working together so much -- and favor a melodic, introspective approach to post-bop. Zoffer and Larrabee both have impressive chops, but they don't beat listeners over the head with them; the Boston residents would rather be lyrical, and that is obvious on pieces that range from Larrabee's impressionistic "Escape Artist" to Zoffer's funky "Here Comes Spider." The lyrical approach also serves them well on "Seasonal Beards," a haunting Larrabee piece that has a strong tango influence and underscores his appreciation of the late Astor Piazzolla. Most of the selections were written by either Zoffer or Larrabee; the exceptions are "Chopin Noc-Turned" (which is based on Frédéric Chopin's "Eb Major Nocturne") and Scott Joplin's "Solace." The latter is a ragtime classic, but what the Zoffer/Larrabee duo does to "Solace" isn't ragtime -- they successfully give the song an unlikely post-bop makeover. A fine document of the duo's live performances in Boston, Courage in Closeness makes one hope that Zoffer and Larrabee will record a lot more albums together.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson