Toledo, Ohio, and Bavaria might seem odd bedfellows for vintage jazz, but in the case of trumpeter Duke Heitger and pianist Bernd Lhotzky, it has been a big part of their lives since childhood. Heitger, whose father is the legendary Dixieland clarinetist Ray Heitger, has been steeped in the early New Orleans tradition, and injected it during his stint with Squirrel Nut Zippers. A devoted follower of stride and swing era jazz piano, Lhotzky has collaborated prominently with Dick Hyman and Ralph Sutton among others. These spirited duets cover early traditional territory quite well, digging up chestnuts and a few delightful obscurities, reminding listeners young and old about the continued viability of these tunes long after their introduction into the American musical lexicon. The pacing of every other track on the first half of the recording is alternately black (upbeat) or white (slow) -- there's no gray area. Heitger and Lhotzky zip through James P. Johnson's "Fascination," maybe a bit rushed and even quaint, bounce through Bubber Miley's "Doin' the Voom Voom," jump through the hot "Jeepers Creepers," and spastically rip up "Liza" with a spoofing attitude. Johnson's "You've Got to Be Modernistic" features the pianist by himself, a bit anxious, but still in his element, while also approaching the Gershwins' "Rhapsody in Blue" during their composition "Embraceable You." Clearly channeling Louis Armstrong, Heitger chooses a less balladic or elegant inflection on Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley," uses muted wah-wah trumpet during a deliberate version of "Saturday Night Function," and urges Lhotzky into a perky mood for "Manhattan." The most unusual and smartest choices include Toots Mondello's slow, sad blues "Shades of Jade," the alluring, slight tango flavored "Volver," and the dour, suspicious "Poor Loulie Jean." An internal warmth is more readily heard than any steamy exchanges between these two, but they have produced a faithfully interpreted program of classic jazz without a rhythm section -- admirable no matter your preferences or taste level.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos