A titan duo of musicians come together for a recording on Douglas’ own label that pays homage in part to the compositions of Wayne Shorter, yet in terms of style, has all the feel of a retrospective re-examination of the early duets between Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry on both the Contemporary and Atlantic labels. On this particular recording, Joe Lovano also performs on G mezzo soprano saxophone as well as tenor. In fact, the co-leaders are the authors of no less than five compositions a piece, but it those two Shorter covers that dominate proceedings here. The title track of a historic mid-1960s Wayne Shorter Blue Note album ‘Juju’, is actually performed with a freer and looser sound than on the original and starts with a drum solo (indeed throughout the intros are anything but conventional), and builds up a head of steam, with a meaty solo from Lovano. By contrast, ‘Fe Fi Fo Fum’, from this writer’s all-time favourite Shorter 1965 recording, ‘Speak No Evil’, is far closer in approach to the original, with saxophonist and trumpeter stating the theme in tandem, the music taken at a more sedate pace, and some deft work on rim drums by Joey Baron. This line-up incidentally first performed together live at the Monterrey Jazz Festival and operate extremely well as a tight quintet.
Of the originals, it is the pieces by Douglas that impress most of all, as illustrated on the title track, a reflective ballad that in its motif borrows from Coltrane’s ‘Naima’, and with a lovely classical touch on the piano by Lawrence Fields. Piano and trumpet work in unison on the excellent Douglas composed, ‘Libra’, which commences this time with a piano intro. On Lovano’s ‘Full Moon’, the duo reproduce that early Ornette-Don duet work, while on ‘Full Sun’ there is a strong hint of hard bop and a bass solo from Linda May Han Oh. For fans of freer form, the duet are on all-out attack on ‘Dream State’, with Fields engaging in some tasty mid-1960s Hancock-esque musings. In general, there is plenty of space in which musicians can operate independently, and the music is never formulaic. Arguably, Lovano’s strongest composition is reserved for ‘The Corner Tavern’, which has an infectious Latin vamp on piano. While at times the stylistic tribute to Cherry and Coleman is taken a little too far on occasion for these ears with simultaneous improvisation that could have been reduced to fewer examples, this is still a fine album to behold and the accompanying soloing by bassist, pianist and drummer are of an extremely high standard and inventive. Fans of a looser and more radical sound will undoubtedly find their musical nirvana here.