Take Five, Duo Edition: Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock, Randy Ingram & Drew Gress, More

Apr 16, 2017

This week, Take Five is all about duos: from all-star summit meetings, like the one pictured above, to collaborative new partnerships like the Upstate Project, jointly led by singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin and pianist-composer Guillermo Klein. The unifying thread is deep colloquy bound by mutual respect — along with the sheer quality of the music.



Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock, “Hot House”


Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock share a history of sparkling piano duologue stretching back some 40 years, to a 1978 concert tour. They rekindled that bond for the first time at the Blue Note Jazz Club in 2011, during Corea’s 70th birthday residency. Chick Corea: The Musician, due out on Friday, gathers highlights from that engagement on 3 CDs, with an accompanying documentary on Blu-ray. The performances range widely in style and instrumentation: Corea performs with vocalist Bobby McFerrin, a reunited Return to Forever and vibraphonist Gary Burton, among others. But there’s a specific joy in hearing these two piano masters on equal footing, especially as they carve up a bebop tune like Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House.” Hear how Corea sets up the frame, while Hancock fills in colors. Then the two pianists venture into playful crosstalk, not trading phrases so much as drawing a complex picture in symbiotic tandem.

Randy Ingram Featuring Drew Gress, “Guimarães”



Pianist Randy Ingram and bassist Drew Gress played their first gig together a couple of years ago at Mezzrow, the intimate duo room in Greenwich Village. The experience, which they repeated a few times, was so satisfying that Ingram decided to make it the focus of his elegant new album, The Wandering. There’s no mistaking the sturdy yet sensitive rapport between these musicians on “Guimarães,” which has its premiere here. The lyrical grace and wafting pulse of the composition recall Fred Hersch, in whose trio Gress played for years. And along with an articulate solo, Ingram delivers moments of tight convergence in his arrangement. This Wednesday, a couple of days before the album is released on Sunnyside, he and Gress will perform at The Jazz Gallery.


Rebecca Martin & Guillermo Klein, “Just As In Spring”


Over the last couple of years, the Upstate Project has been an experiment in form and content. At heart it’s a collaboration between two deeply intuitive songwriters: Rebecca Martin, who’s also a singer and guitarist, and Guillermo Klein, a pianist, vocalist, bandleader and composer. The name of the group is an allusion to the Hudson Valley, where both artists reside.


  And throughout the Upstate Project’s self-titled new debut, it’s striking how deeply melded their sensibilities are, especially in terms of melody and harmony. The opening track, “Just As in Spring,” is jointly credited to Martin and Klein, who each contribute vocals. (On bass is Larry Grenadier, Martin’s husband; on drums is Jeff Ballard, who has longstanding ties to everyone involved.) “Guided by the mystery,” sings Martin in the first verse, and it’s clear that she isn’t saying that lightly.

Dominic Miller and Miles Bould, “Chaos Theory”


Silent Light, the recent ECM debut by guitarist Dominic Miler, is by and large a solo album. But several tracks do feature a second musician, the prolific session percussionist Miles Bould. “Chaos Theory” is the one track that features Bould on a drum kit rather than auxiliary percussion, and its springy acoustic funk points in the direction of a possible follow-up. Miller is best known as the longtime guitarist for Sting, and his pristine acoustic fingerpicking can give the impression of placid calm even when he’s stretching. Bould nudges him a bit further out on the ledge, while preserving a clear equilibrium. Their rapport is understated, but it shouldn’t be underestimated.

Cécile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner

If you’ve seen Cécile McLorin Salvant in the last handful of years, there’s a good chance you’ve seen her backed by the excellent Aaron Diehl Trio. But Salvant has also forged a strong bond with pianist Sullivan Fortner, as Jazz Night in America explored in this recent radio episode. Herein, you’ll find ace performances of tunes like “Speak Low” and “Sweet Man Blues,” and some illuminating conversation between the two artists, two of the bright lights of their generation. And take note: Salvant and Fortner perform at HarlemStage Gatehouse on Thursday, and at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Friday, before heading on to Boston and Stony Brook, New York. (For more information, see Salvant’s website.)