An album to take your time over, to soak up all its manifold goodness.
Recorded in Sussex in October 2013 three years after the pair first collaborated at the Pizza Express Jazz Club’s Steinway Festival, exploring the music of Bill Evans was a significant element in their rapport from the off and it is a striking aspect of this debut, it’s the Britjazz piano legend Taylor and highly respected but much lesser known younger player Fairhurst’s first album together.
Duets begins uncompromisingly in a sombre style with ‘Epitaph to Sabbo’ a tribute to pianist Pete Saberton who died in 2012. The forboding ‘3 P’s Piece Part I’, one of two similarly titled Saberton pieces, plus ‘Open Book’, ‘Epitaph to Kenny’, another tribute, the internal strings of one of the pianos strummed in an unsettling spirit of contrast, this time to Kenny Wheeler, and the late trumpeter-composer’s mock operatic tango ‘Sly Eyes’, a piece that appeared on Wheeler and Taylor album Moon as well as the posthumously released Wheeler album Songs For Quintet are among the selections.
The three Bill Evans pieces: ‘Very Early’, ‘Turn out the Stars’ and ‘Re: Person I Knew’ form a considerable strand and, finally, ‘Growth in an Old Garden, a Fairhurst tune that goes back to the 1990s and the pianist’s Hungry Ants days, provides another entry point.
Listening to Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea at the Barbican recently, a very different take on two pianists playing together (chief difference: H&C used electronic keyboards as well but there was also far more free improv involved), a similarity extends certainly to superlative performance empathy and that special knack of each player to anticipate the other’s moves that Fairhurst and Taylor share with the two American jazz greats.
Quite gentle in places, with a captivating calmness to it in its best moments but full of torrid passion where needed, these duets are an unalloyed delight. SG
Released on 7 August