‘Duocracy,’ Canadian-Style

Even though my most recent record, Duocracy, came out way back in February, it’s nice to see it still getting attention here and there. This is a natural result, I think, of the constantly overflowing state of the reviewers’ inboxes—but just like I will occasionally see a CD laying around which I’d forgotten I bought and end up loving it, sometimes a reviewer will get around to a record long after it’s been released. In this case, the reviewer—Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen, a very thoughtful writer whose work I’ve read for years—paired the review with another trumpet/piano duo (Dave Douglas’ and Uri Caine’s Present Joys, which I have to pick up!). Here are some highlights from his very kind write-up:

With their fine and refined album Duocracy, trumpeter Ian Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow have a fresh and rewarding musical partnership. The album appeals immediately because the two San Francisco Bay Area musicians, both in their late 30s, are both lean, polished players with lots of facility and flow, but the good taste too to never throw in extra notes. Their disc reveres jazz tradition but feels unbounded too, blessed with spontaneity, poise and personality. The album presents savvy selection of 10 tracks… Cherokee, while taken at its requisite breakneck tempo, feels like a walk in the park, with Carey and Stolorow playing freely and expressively. Stolorow’s a sensitive and varied accompanist throughout the CD, but on Cherokee he really shines as he finds different ways to keep the tune moving forward… There’s more jazz cred on a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s striking, finger-stumping tune Four In One. … Versions of Gigi Gryce’s Social Call, which saunters nicely, and Comin’ Along, a contrafact built on the chord changes of Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty, keep the bop flame burning. On those and a few other tunes, there are stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising that stand out for their clarity and simpatico. Trumpet and piano duets pop up infrequently in jazz. Don’t ask me why. And yet, Carey and Stolorow make the pairing sound like the most natural and rewarding team-up going.

Overall I’ve felt that the press Duocracy received mostly focused on the “straightahead-ness” of the record, and failed to hear the ways that Ben and I tried to take the album out of the standards-jam-session model—especially those “stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising” Hum mentions above—so it’s gratifying to hear from someone who really picked up on that.

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