By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Albums like this collection of tenor sax and piano duets from Irv Williams and Peter Schimke don't get made much anymore because few are alive to make them, or at least make them properly. Music this steadfastly lyrical, this unabashedly sentimental, this sad and knightly and romantic just doesn't come naturally or honestly to the under-75 set. Show me a thirtysomething tenor player rendering standards in his best Lester Young purr, and I'll show you someone not prepared to grapple seriously with contemporary aesthetics. Show me an octogenarian tenor player mining "My Funny Valentine" for all its cruelty and beauty, and I'll show you to the bedroom. A few weeks ago a misinformed Hugo Chávez reverently sent Noam Chomsky to his grave, and a few weeks ago I took "Valentine" to be a horse dead before Secretariat was in knee pants. Wrong again.
Williams, dubbed "Mr. Smooth" by former Pi Press jazz critic Bob Protzman, developed his sighing style when Young still was (relatively) young, and though he's never gained much national recognition, he's been the most revered figure in Twin Cities jazz for decades. As of late he's been a resurgent and prolific recording artist, and this cross-generational collaboration with Schimke is his most satisfying statement of continued relevance yet. Highlights include a pensive reading of the hymn "God of Justice"; the pianist's also pensive, Bill Evans-inspired "The Vow"; and the aforementioned "Valentine" revivification. Nothing feels perfunctory, and few breathy flourishes fail to justify themselves. Mortality ain't what it used to be; if we're lucky we'll get 10 more of these.
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