SPLENDID - 1978
Philip Catherine : acoustic guitars
Larry Coryell : acoustic guitars
Perhaps even more than "Twin House" [ELEKTRA 6E-123], to which this album is a verg welcome sequel, the nine tracks herein show what a tremendous depth and range of musical expression is possible from just two musicians - if those musicians are brilliant, resourceful improvisers with big ears, eclectic tastes and a percipient understanding of each other's musical personalities.
When the musicians involved are of the calibre of Philip Catherine and Larry Coryell, the duo can be the most fruitful and fulfilling form of collaboration in the process of spontaneous musical composition. Not only is the general level of creativity and mutual inspiration high, but the music has great vitality and represents a distillation of an extremely broad spectrum of musical idioms and cultures.
The music on this album is an exultant amalgam of all the diverse influences which shape the style of truly aware musicians - you can hear guitar jazz from Django to Pass, via Charlie Christian; you can hear Country, and Rock, European Classical and Folk Music, eastern elements and hints of Bebop and Avantgarde Jazz. Both Coryell and Catherine are sufficientig mature musicians to understand the importance of sustaining interest and excitement by exploiting all musical and instrumental resources. A simple, but telling, example is pro vided bg the opening track, "One Plus Two Blues", which though played in the standard guitar key of e, actually comes across a semitone lower because the two men tuned their guitars down half a step.
This Coryell original, whose title relates to the alternating intervals in the scale used on the theme statement, is a catchy blues with a 12-bar middle section [repeated the first time round but played only once the second time]. Then, at the end, six bars of the middle section are used as a kind of coda.
"Snow Shadows" is an evocative title for a very descriptive, mellow and meditative piece which features Catherine an the warm and deeply resonant fretless guitar, with accompaniment from Coryell on the regular acoustic guitar. The overall effect is most beguiling.
Philip Catherine's "Transvested Express" - a typical nonsense title - is most intriguingly constructed. The theme is spread across 23 beats, made up of two bars of 7/8 and three bars of 3/8. Yet, such is Catherine's gift for composition, the sequence sounds totally logical and is full of interest, even down to the quote from "Flight Of The Bumble Bee". For the final track on side one the duo is augmented by brilliant German pianist Joachim Kühn.
"Deus Xango" is a composition by the remarkable Argentinian musician Astor Piazzolla. The piece is pos sessed of a kind of suspended animation which suggests a gypsy Czardas that never manages to work up to the expected accelerating frenzy. Kühn provides an insistent vamp for the two guitarists and, intriguingly enough, the solos are based on a chord sequence taken from a piece Catherine wrote for one of his proteges a fine 13-year-old guitarist in Brussels called Nicolas.
As on "Twin House", the two guitarists reserve one track for a tribute to Django. This time it is "My Serenade" and the sad, sweet tone of the master is lovingly emulated. Coryell takes the first solo and then provides rhythm chords for Catherine's extemporisation.
"No More Booze" has absolutely nothing to do with "Chega de Saudade" but is a Coryell tune with a modal feel based on a reiterated four-bar phrase; and the "Father Christmas" which 'allows was written by Catherine with Charles Mingus in mind. Once again Catherine uses the fretless guitar to achieve a deep, lugubrious sound against the sprightly arpeggios of Coryell.
Julie Coryell - saluted on the opening track of "Twin House" by Larry's "Ms. Julie" - is the composer of "A Quiet Day In Spring", a gentle mood piece which brings out the romantic soul of both guitarists; and as a finale there is a spirited rendering of "The Train And The River", the tune which earned long overdue recognition for Jimmy Giuffre when he recorded it for Atlantic in 1956 with Jim Hall and Ralph Pena. This tune, and the Piazzolla piece, were, incidentally, suggested by producer Siggi Loch and both prove excellent vehicles for the beautifully integrated guitar partnership of Coryell and Catherine. "The Train And The River" gets a particularly imaginative treatment with broad, crashing chords and a chugging, locomotive tempo - and right at the end is a brief tribute to another famous jazz train, the "Night Train" of Jimmy Forrest.
The idea of recording sequels to successful albums is one which can he fraught with danger, because it is in the nature of music which relies heavily an spontaneity that the recreation of a previously productive environment does not necessarily guarantee continuing inspiration. This, however, is one occasion when the sequel emphatically reaches the same high artistic levels of the original.
Editiirial Director, Jazz Journal International.