Howard Riley

Duality

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First released in 1982 and reissued on CD 20 years later, Duality defines in exquisite detail Howard Riley's style at the time. The title refers to the contrasting sides of the original LP: a long improvisation on one, five short pieces on the other. But one can develop the paradigm further and add that the 21-minute "Zones" represents the pianist's penchant for non-idiomatic free improvisation and the other tunes his respect for -- and the inspiration he still drew from -- bop pianists like McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. "Zones" sums up Riley's explorations in free-form land, from the virtuosic speed chases of The Toronto Concert to the more tempered experiments on the triple set Trisect. And yet the music remains true to solo piano form: no electronics involved (as on some of his '70s sessions with Tony Oxley); no overdubs either (as on Trisect). The piece reflects his then recent collaboration with Keith Tippett though; it has that expressionistic pull-and-push feel. The compositions complete the picture with chiseled tunes that sound like winks of acknowledgment as much as genuine Riley. The impressionistic mood of "Loop" is Evans-esque to the bone, while the quirky (and heavily hammered) melody of "Mixture" more than hints at Thelonious Monk. "Circle Cycle" and "Arcs" come closer to the writing Riley would explore in the next few years. In the end, Duality makes a fine, nicely balanced solo statement. And don't be disappointed by its rather short duration (40 minutes). The fact that the CD reissue doesn't have bonus tracks is a blessing, as they would have destroyed Riley's original idea. Recommended.

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