Trumpet & Piano: Dennis González/João Paulo & Enrico Rava/Ran Blake
Dennis González / João Paulo – ScapeGrace (CF 144)
Enrico Rava / Ran Blake – Duo En Noir (Between the Lines)
Different instruments paired in duet with piano bring out unique facets. With drums, its percussive nature becomes remarkably apparent while matched with an upright bass, it becomes more harmonic and moody. Though done with less frequency than those formats, the trumpet-piano duet is an appealing scenario, one that draws out the piano’s higher range and a certain brash classicism. Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines perhaps did it first; Oscar Peterson recorded a handful of duet albums in the ’70s with Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and others and today we have the lengthy partnership of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura, to provide a very scant timeline of the genre.
The encounter between Latino-American trumpeter/cornetist Dennis Gonzalez and Portuguese pianist João Paulo documented on ScapeGrace is an unusual one. It is certainly one of the former’s more introspective albums, a wonderful opportunity to hear his lush melodic thinking in perfect clarity, only the slightest indication of moving air audible. Paulo’s background is a classical one, with an accomplished technique to match so there too we get absolutely faultless articulation. The nine tracks on the album are originals, three by González and the remainder by Paulo. Most tend to move slowly and deliberately but still maintaining a sprightly lightness. Not that there is much culture shared between Dallas (from where González hails and still makes his home) and Lisbon but different pieces on ScapeGrace might make a listener consider other analogous partnerships such as Canadians Kenny Wheeler and Paul Bley (which did happen) and South Africans Abdullah Ibrahim and Mongezi Feza (which sadly never did). The album is long at 72 minutes but unlike many other similarly extended sessions, it is the unfolding beauty of ScapeGrace that keeps it compelling.
Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava is no stranger to this format, having recorded with countrymen Enrico Pieranunzi and more recently with the dynamic Stefano Bollani. Duo En Noir, with American pianist Ran Blake, comes inbetween those efforts, recorded live in Frankfurt in 1999. The pair’s emphasis on space and lyricism make them ideal partners. Apart from playing one of Rava’s favorite originals, “Certi Angoli Segreti” (done solo), the rest of this program is an interesting mix of selections. There are jazz standards like “Nature Boy,” “There’s No You,” “I Should Care,” “Tea For Two” and “There’s a Small Hotel” but interspersed is film music by Bernard Hermann and David Raksin (a “Vertigo/Laura” medley) and Roy Webb (“The Spiral Staircase) as well as Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” (solo piano). At less than 40 minutes, this set is quite zippy, the longest tune a whopping five-plus minutes and the shortest just under two (a solo Blake rendition of Kelly Donohue’s “Shake the Cage”). Duo En Noir actually ends long before you were expecting, or wishing, it would.