Dominic Duval


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There have been numerous tributes to Thelonious Monk, but this one is unusual in limiting its instrumentation to acoustic string bass and tenor sax -- a particularly challenging combination for the performers. It is worth hearing any recording in which the compositions of Monk are interpreted freshly, as they are here. The duo focuses exclusively on pieces by Monk, and these highly accessible renditions primarily showcase the talents of Jimmy Halperin, whose slightly behind-the-beat, marbles-in-the-mouth sound is starkly displayed to good effect. Despite the self-effacing protestation in his liner notes ("In retrospect, I feel I needed to mature more in musical strength and savvy to be able to play Monk"), Halperin is well-prepared for the daunting melodies, toying with tempos and timbre with a deceptively simple approach. That he had not performed Monk's work regularly may be an advantage as the saxophonist avoids over-familiarity, and preserves a freshness in his performance. With a somewhat clunky attack, he is nonetheless able to deliver, with surprisingly unmitigated precision, a series of rapidly delivered runs that leave the listener merely scratching his head. Halperin's voice recalls, to some extent, the solid, confident solos of Coleman Hawkins from decades earlier. Halperin shares with Hawkins an individual style, something rare among Halperin's contemporaries. With virtually unparalleled technique on the bass, and broad vision, Dominic Duval's breadth of performance is often awe-inspiring, and he fails to disappoint here -- although his unamplified sound requires close listening as it is a bit low in the mix. Whether in support or out front, Duval plays virtually flawlessly, a perfect partner to the saxophonist. Together, they contribute something of value to the legacy of Thelonious Monk, without compromising their own musical personalities.

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