Aki Takase & David Murray


Duets are so revealing. Thyey require the utmost attention from two musicians—either in support or in discussion, entwined or independent. Playing with another person means playing solo and support simultaneously, and when it works well, it can be absolute magic.

Japanese pianist Aki Takase, long a Berlin resident, has been on a roll with great duets for Intakt, but this one might be the best yet. She and reedist David Murray have instant rapport, a kind of innate connectedness that seems related to a shared respect for form and controlled volubility. Murray is at the top of his game. I’ve not heard a more fulsome and becoming recording from him in a long while; it’s nice and close, but rich and full toned.

Throughout, Murray is hand-in-glove with Takase’s sensitive harmonic playing, nowhere more dramatically than on the pianist’s “Blues For David,” where she puts down lush and surprising chords. And when Murray plays bass clarinet on a very laid-back take on Thelonious Monk’s “Let’s Cool One,” the pianist offers abstracted stride moves in support.

The title track is an achingly elegant, slowly unfolding song with folk overtones drawn out gorgeously by Murray’s tenor. Likewise, the saxophonist’s dedication “To A.P. Kern,” for the 19th-century Russian memoirist, is a bittersweet ballad, each of the musicians reaching for ways to touch a nerve. In terms of the interplay, the duets of Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan come to mind. But Murray and Takase seem a more adventurous pairing, taking more liberties and more solo space.