Dual Identity – Dual Identity (CF 172)
A double alto sax front line is quite exceptional, and even more so when both musicians are known for their compositional intricacy and technical mastership … and find each other organically despite their quite different angle of approach to music.The two altos are Rudresh Mahanthappa, whose Indian background is omnipresent in his compositions and improvisations, and Steve Lehman, whose skills can be an asset, but are sometimes also a burden, and quite well illustrated by his two latest albums.
This is not Lehman’s first exposure to more Indian influence, actually, his work with pianist Vijay Iyer in Fieldwork, quite well mirrored the many albums that Mahanthappa and Iyer released together. Now both saxes have found each other in the great company of three musicians of equal skills : Liberty Ellman on guitar, Matt Brewer on bass, and Damion Reid on drums.
The composition of the pieces is almost evenly divided among the two saxophonists, with one by Ellman, and it’s interesting to hear how they move towards each other, despite the easy recognition of the Mahanthappa tracks.
In any case, the tunes are lively, complex but not too much, keeping their human directness and warmth, with great soloing from all musicians. Although I wish they could have been more explosive and daring at times, the delivery is full of soul and emotional depth.
The album is was recorded live at the Braga Jazz Festival, Portugal in 2009. The live audience gives the music even more depth, although for some tracks the applause is mixed out (why? why? have you ever heard a mute audience?).
And these five guys have skills you can only dream of. Brewer and Reid are possibly the less known members of the band, but what a rhythm section! Recommended.