A classic performance from two departed masters of modern jazz preserve their talents for the ages
Like most forms of music, jazz can’t be confined to any single template.
It can vary from mellow nocturnal melodies of a cocktail variety to avant-garde exploratory sounds that seemingly soar into the stratosphere while breaking boundaries in the process. Some jazz is built on spontaneity and improvisation, while other varieties keep to a decidedly melodic motif, either shared through standards or created through contemporary compositions.
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Two remarkable and dearly departed musicians — trumpet/flugelhorn player Roy Hargrove and pianist Mulgrew Miller — performed well within that latter dynamic, finding a dual harmony that created a decided synchronicity as a means of a complementary collaboration. Recorded in concert at Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City on January 15, 2006, the aptly-named In Harmony finds the two men performing for an appreciative audience san any additional instrumentation.
Artist: Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller
Album: In Harmony
Label: Resonance Records
★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
It’s a remarkable listen throughout, hearing them weave their way around one another in a series of assured solos while also paying heed to every note and nuance in the process. Miller’s supple playing naturally forms the foundation, establishing the melodies that allow Hargrove to expand on the themes with a series of staccato solos that take each passage into new dimensions. While many of the pieces are soothing and subdued, the music is never complacent. Indeed, each solo warrants the crowd’s applause while underscoring the intricacy and intrigue the duo clearly command.
The first CD of the two disc set is comprised of lengthy pieces, none of them less than eight minutes in duration. “I Remember Clifford” and “Triste” are especially memorable, each establishing a theme that keeps consistent throughout. Disc 2 opts mainly for standards — among them, a daringly distinct version of Betty Comden, Aldolph Green and June Styne’s showstopper “Just in Time,” Thelonious Monk’s exploratory “Monk’s Dream” and an encore titled “Ow!,” one of two Dizzy Gillespie compositions the album includes. While the material is decidedly diverse, the pair keep a clear consistency courtesy of their articulate yet imaginative arrangements, shared sensitivity and ability to keep each selection clutter free. Instead, the duo manage to create a decidedly tasteful tapestry, giving ample allure to each passage and progression.
As Zev Feldman of Resonance Records notes in the foreword to the sumptuous booklet of tales and tributes that’s part of the package, it is indeed “timeless music in the moment and rooted in tradition.”
It’s little wonder; Miller and Hargrove share a combined eloquence and sublime sensitivity. They’re not pushing any parameters, but they’re not confined or constricted to any narrow divide either. It’s a remarkable performance by any measure, and lovers of jazz — or any other sound source for that matter — ought to find these remarkable readings both soothing and satisfying.
VIDEO: In Harmony mini-documentary