Freefall

Band :
Release Date : May 15, 2001
Format : CD

Duet albums are inherently tricky affairs. Without the added textures and colors of a full band, the minimalist dynamics of two instruments alone together can too often turn repetitious and stale, as the difficulty of generating sparks between two musicians turns into a disappointing experience for the listener. But there are exceptions, and happily, pianist Kenny Barron and violinist Regina Carter’s Freefall is one of them. This is a wildly diverse set that shows off these two musicians’ enormous talents to great effect. Freefall succeeds where other duet albums sometimes fail, thanks to its variety. Opening with the Afro-Cuban montuno-flavored version of “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,” the album moves through a delicate rendition of Sting’s “Fragile,” and a bluesy take on Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso,” all of which showcase the two musicians’ tremendous range. Barron and Carter complement each other perfectly throughout; their interplay even includes some interesting role-reversal moments where Carter backs Barron with rhythmic accompaniment on her violin. And Barron shows why he’s still one of the most underappreciated pianists around. For all the pair’s technical facility playing various jazz styles though, the high points of the album are undoubtedly on the tracks where they venture the furthest afield, as in the quirky Barron original “What If,” and the improvised title track, both of which get into some interesting spaces that recall early 20th-century classical composers such as Bartók and Stravinsky. –Ezra Gale