Is this really the best of the Bertram Turetzky series on the Nine Winds label? It is really quite hard to say, since the standards have been so high with these releases. In many ways, this duet with the equally versatile and skilled pianist Mike Wofford, always drawing in a few guests on some tracks, presents one of the clearest pictures of the vast combination of musical styles Turetzky is comfortable with, flowing easily between jazz and classical influences in a manner that should thrill fans of both genres. One reason for the high rating would also be the liner notes by trombonist, electronics performer, and composer George Lewis, who also is happily one of the performers on the disc as well. While most recordings can come and go and be judged with or without the liner notes, these scribblings are both amusing and profound, not only complementing this recording perfectly but also representing a set of liner notes that could be used with most good recordings of creative music. That said, it should be pointed out that the author's year 2000 assertion that "I never heard anybody talking about how somebody 'e-mailed me for a gig'" is ludicrous -- German bassist Peter Kowald, for example, lined up a two-month American tour using only the Internet. At any rate, Lewis gets by with only a gentle reprimand for this comment, easily made up for by his chattering, mumbling trombone assertions on an extended version of "Mysterioso" by Thelonious Monk. "A Major Decision" is the name of the CD's opening track, one of a variety of improvised pieces by pianist and bassist, and perhaps the title is a reference to the idea of not wimping out when it comes to a title track. This piece immediately sets the standard for the CD -- tough, unrelenting, requiring concentration, and most likely the type of thing that will send the listener who is not initiated into the acrobatics of new music outside to stew silently. Other pieces might be more accessible, such as the wonderful version of Charles Mingus' "Eclipse" featuring vocalist Kristin Korb, but this also gets into some pretty abstract areas as it unfolds. The entire project has been treated to superb recording, the sound of both the piano and bass as thick and real as it gets. Hopefully, there will be more collaborations from Wofford and Turetzky -- they work extremely well together. The pianist's background as a jazz accompanist to artists such as Sarah Vaughan is well-evident on the version of Oscar Pettiford's "Tamalpais," a superb performance of duo jazz that is on par with the landmark Pablo recording of Duke Ellington and Ray Brown. On the free-improvised front, there are many areas of playing that can be praised, but one of the most important is the duo's ability to make their creations precise, endings coming along in a manner that might elude many other artists whose thoughts are of a more wandering nature. Nothing demonstrates this further than "Short Subjects 1," which in less than 40 seconds expresses a whole universe of sound.
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