Steve Kuhn

Two by Two

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The verve of a duet recording between pianist Steve Kuhn and electric bass guitarist Steve Swallow cannot be underestimated. An inherent telepathy, shared concern for beauty, and high level of musicianship should lead one to believe, on paper, that this would be a perfect joining, and indeed it is. So many outstanding pieces highlight this disc, especially considering they play no standards. Of Kuhn's compositions, you get the stunning "Deep Tango," with its stop-start tendencies, and Kuhn vocally reciting "Poem for #15" (never previously recorded with the verse), also known as "The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers." Both of these classics were previously heard on the ECM recording Playground, which Kuhn did in collaboration with Sheila Jordan. There's the bluesy title selection, the fun "Mr. Calypso Kuhn" (rivaling the Sonny Rollins evergreen "St. Thomas"), and the utterly gorgeous "Gentle Thoughts." Swallow assimilates legitimate single-string high-octave guitar leads on "Deep Tango" and "Gentle Thoughts," but sticks with traditional basslines on most of the record, and he is an unquestioned master at that. His compositional contributions are his more famous than ever melody of "Eiderdown" (a great rendition), the noir drama samba "Ladies in Mercedes" (popularized by Carla Bley), and the spirit waltz "Remember." All pieces are played with a modern luster and shine rivaling a mirror-like polished piece of chrome. Whether pristine and pretty, pensive and moody, or bright and bouncy, Kuhn and Swallow consistently deliver a timeless recording that should stand all tests of time, and is definitely recommended.

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