Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Holly Hofmann and Bill Cunliffe for Eloquent Flute and Piano Duets
One of the really good things about doing these blogs is the chance to hear music I never would have thought to check out. Like flautist Holly Hofmann and pianist Bill Cunliffe's duo association. I had heard of them. I'm sure I've even heard them separately at some point. I hadn't heard them in tandem. Their fourth collaboration Three's Company (Capri 74099-2) has come out and now plays on my computer's CD-ROM drive.
What first strikes me is the way they incorporate pre-bop stylistic traits into a contemporary framework. Cunliffe's bright originals partake of the contemporary melodic-harmonic contours you might hear in something Chic Corea or Gary Burton (or both) have advanced (with some Latin overtones on occasion), but reworked to an original result. Then there's a hint of stride; there are some boppish influences here and there too, especially on Holly's title track, but they are not always pronounced. Cunliffe and Hofmann are joined by a guest artist for half of the numbers and each adds his or her own inimitable luster. There's violinist Regina Carter (for a beautiful reading of Strayhorn's "The Star-Crossed Lovers"), reedman Ken Peplowski (see earlier review posting on his new album), the drums of Alvester Garnett, and Terell Stafford's trumpet.
But in the end it is the exceptionally beautiful flute tone and phrasing of Ms. Hofmann and the vividly colored piano of Bill Cunliffe that win the day. This is exceptionally soothing music that does not lack spirit and shows two considered talents at the height of their art. Who cares what category you would like to put it in. It's some kind of jazz, surely. But it's very good music first and foremost.
I was really quite pleasantly surprised and pleased with this set. You may well also feel that way. Listen, by all means!