By Ken Waxman
Putting a personal stamp on a duo concept that dates back to the time of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines are Porto native Susana Santos Silva and Kranj-born Kaja Draksler. But the Portugese trumpeter/flugelhornist and the Amsterdam-residing, Slovenia pianist do more than create a standard vacillating parry-and-thrust routine. Instead like fire dancers careful to avoid being burned by the flames around then they lean away from uncomfortable abstraction as cleverly they avoid run-of-the-mill mainstream adornments.
Silva who often works with Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg, the Rotterdam-based LAMA trio as well as reedists like Chris Speed avoids limpid prettiness which always lingers near brass instruments. Draksler, comfortable in solo, quartet and large ensemble settings, uses busy syncopation and cogent tremolos to substantiate the tunes’ narrative centres at the same time as she subverts them with excursions into atonality.
Wide ranging, as early as the first track “Laurie” – not to be confused with the ballad “Laura” – the two bring unkempt kinetics to the theme’s pristine passion as if they’re rubbing dirt onto the outfit of a perfectly dressed mannequin to emphasize inner beauty. These cloaked sonic virtues are almost literally mined from beneath the exposition’s surface, as on “You Persevere”. As the trumpeter’s raw tone is sucked from a place deep inside her horn, the pianist’s timbre-sundering judders move downwards from key pressure to strums and strokes that agitate items attached to the piano’s inner string set.
Overall the collection of plunger blasts and trembling keyboard vibrations that sympathetically quiver alongside one another either in aggressively mocking or pacifying smoothness, reach a climax on Draksler’s “Forgotten Lands”. Emphasizing busy and bellicose piano chord progressions mixed with gurgling articulation from the trumpet, the track accelerates to high-pitched brassiness and repeated chromatic key buffering to blend triumphantly as if a long sought goal has been attained. Given the keyboardist’s nationality the tune could have socio-political implications or it could be accepted as an indication of how well the tonal mixture works from these evolving players.
In short it’s easy to express this love to the program and performance.