Various ‘Duo Art: creating magic’ 2CD (ACT) 3/5

Duo-Art-creating-magicGerman label ACT has now been in existence for some twenty years or so and this double CD set celebrates the sheer diversity of the musicians on its roster with particular reference to duet performances which is a novel way in which to showcase the products on offer. What comes across from cherry-picking releases in this fashion is that ACT has promoted a good many up and coming jazz artists with a genius for uncovering talented pianists and, at the same time, focusing attention once again on some of the most gifted historical musicians who may for one reason or another have gone out of the public eye. For the former, Michel Wollny is highlighted on two numbers with ‘Polygou’ featuring Marius Neset memorable. Wollny’s brand new trio set will be the subject of a forthcoming review. British pianist Gwilym Simcock’s standing has soared in recent years and the piece ‘Pastoral’ in duet with Yuri Gloubev gives an indication why. This is another glimpse of an imminent new release that will feature in a near future review. Among the more established musicians, the pairing of saxophonist Hanz Sauer and pianist Joachim Kühn has been a fruitful one in recent years and their interpretation of the standard ‘Lover Man’ is well up to their usual high standard. Guitar and bass duets are relatively rare so the pairing of guitarist Philip Catherine and bassist Martin Wind is a welcome one and their uptempo take on Dexter Gordon’s ‘Fried Banana’s’ is well worth investigating and one track on their new album (see separate review). World roots flavours abound here with fusion collaborations another strong feature of ACT. The atmospheric Milesesque trumpet hues emanate from a duet between Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and French-born guitarist with Vietnamese heritage Nguyên Lê on ‘Lacrima Christi’ while flamenco jazz is the order of the day from Gerardo Nunez and Renaud Garcia-Fons on ‘Un Amor real’. Fusion jazz is not forgotten and Bugge Wesseltoft is included on two duets recordings, with ‘Improvisation over La Folia’ in collaboration with violinist Henning Graggervd especially memorable. A more unusual duet is that between two American jazzmen, saxophonist Eddie Harris and keyboardist/arranger Gil Goldstein. This rendition of ‘You stole my heart’ is taken from the ‘Last Concert’ that Harris performed before passing away. In general, then, this selection overview is an excellent way to dip into the ACT back catalogue as well as having a sneak preview of some new and forthcoming releases. It is part of a series devoted to duo music on the label that will be unfolding throughout the year and demonstrates ACT’s continued commitment to new and innovative jazz music. Tim Stenhouse