David Friesen / Denny Zeitlin

Live at Jazz Bakery

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Duets in an intimate setting can frequently bring out the best of performers sans drummer. Pianist Zeitlin and bassist Friesen dish out the introspection and interplay in spades, sowing crops from years of jazz fertilization to offer this lengthy program done over two evenings at the Jazz Bakery in L.A. While they all too infrequently appear on recordings as leaders, together here they make memorable music in a special setting and format, quite an event for fans of these two veterans. Starting off with John Coltrane's always evergreen "Equinox," Zeitlin takes charge with his sometimes ruminating, tinkling, chiming, or cascading lines while Friesen's strummed chordal notions give the piece motion. It's clear they share musical values, and the total sound is heightened by their innate abilities to listen and respond, abilities reflected in the response of their enthusuastic audience after every piece. "Nefertiti" is taken at an unusual triple-time pace, settling to easy 4/4 swing on Friesen's clear-as-a-bell bass solo. You'd expect a great deal of ornate serenity from these two, and you get it during Friesen's "Other Times, Other Places," but not in the restless Zeitlin's 17-minute "Tryptych," during which he goes into rambling, rippling chords, a quite animated solo mid-flight, and unison bass-left hand piano lines. This is not so much exploratory as it is long-winded, playful, and zen-like. A fairly urgent "Epiphany" of the pianist's penning for what seems a brief six minutes merges to the easily swung, poignant yet airy standard "The Touch of Your Lips" expounded upon gloriously by Zeitlin and replete with echoes of "It Might as Well Be Spring." "Upon the Swing" written by Friesen, extends just over ten minutes. It starts frantic and deliciously boppish, settles into rubato pensitivity, and moves back and forth with "Secret Love" inferences favored by Zeitlin. The show concludes with the tranquil, peaceful statement "Goal in Mind." Typical of the bulk of Friesen's spiritual-oriented compositions, the piece is a good way to send 'em home as relaxed as the performers themselves. Enough has never been written about these two. They are true masters who play off each other's strengths in subtle, forceful, and real-world ways. May they always play as well as they are captured on this precious recording. Highly recommended.

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