Duos: When The Sum Is Greater Than Its Parts
The defining characteristic of all great partnerships in cinema, from the male-bonding buddy movie to the classic Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy films, is the tension created between two self-assertive characters, before their eventual collaboration. The same can be said of jazz and improvisational duos. By matching two authoritative players, sparks fly and, if the two cooperate for sympathetic ends, the session produces a worthy result. Below are a few duos of exemplary character.
Scott Fields / Matthias Schubert – Minaret Minuets (CF 213)
Applying laser to Minaret Minuets (or playing the download), from electric guitarist Scott Fields and tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, recalls the early days of mono-into-stereo recordings. Back then you might hear the saxophonist coming from just one speaker. Where you sat in relation to your hi-fi set up was paramount. By unplugging one channel you would be able to create your own solo session. With Fields and Schubert, both strong soloists, you might be tempted to do the same, but, alas, modern engineers blend the channels for balanced listening.
Fields, an American free jazz player from 1960s’ Chicago, has transformed into a complex thinker and organizer of structured and intricate group interactions and improvisations. He moved to Germany a few years back and began working in Schubert’s jazz orchestra. The two have also collaborated on Fields’ ensemble recording, Beckett (Clean Feed, 2007), with John Hollenbeck and Scott Roller.
What stands out here is the multiple simple gestures made by each musician. Be it a saxophone’s flutter and breath or a guitar’s string of notes, each produces sounds that seem to shimmer or glow before dwindling away. The pair apply more space than might be expected. Is it in deference to the other? Perhaps. Maybe that is why the ear is drawn to a single speaker. Focusing on just one player would cause you to ignore the superb interaction of forces here.