In and Out

Johnny Griffin / Martial Solal

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In and Out Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Algerian born pianist Solal and American expatriate tenor saxophonist Griffin are perfectly matched in this series of duets, brilliant beyond compare and witty to the nth degree. Both are in their seventies and playing better than ever. Griffin has everything going for him in terms of experience, restraint, emotional depth, and potential explosiveness. Solal, an unsung hero in jazz, shows the years that have passed did not sour him on concepts of stark romanticism, improvisational risk taking, or fear of cutting loose; he clearly can do it all. These eight selections are bookmarked by only two standards: the easily swung 4/4 evergreen "You Stepped out of a Dream" where Griffin's tender, lean bop lines are followed by Solal, step by step, then traded off near the end, and the Thelonious Monk icon "Well, You Needn't" that has Griffin honking a bit, Solal even more angular and at times dour. The two are quite playful on this one, messing around delightfully. Griffin penned three of these. The half-speed blues title cut is quaintly rendered in stride by Solal while the tenor uses quarter notes almost exclusively. "Hey Now" is a good swinger with some staggered phrasing in and out of the melody line for the pianist, with Griffin more animated, Solal dishing out a memorable solo, and the two trading furiously by the final out. Griffin is a pure sentimentalist as expressed on his ballad "When You're in My Arms." Of Solal's three compositional contributions, one is the lilting and bouncy title track. The quirky, ever-changing meter and timbre of "L'oreille Est Hardie" is based in 4/4 but mutates before one's ears, Solal's unbelievable solo brimming in technique and soul, slavish to neither. Multi-faceted melodies on "Neutralisme" are played together, some astonishingly quick others, swapped like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron cards, both being of equal and potent value, all world class. That Solal and Griffin are utterly brilliant musicians is not in dispute, but together they make magic, and creatively or musically, how could these two possibly go wrong? The fact is they can't on this highly recommended recording.

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