Edmar Castaneda/Grégoire Maret

Harp Vs. Harp

This gimmicky concept shouldn’t work, but it does. Edmar Castaneda, a flashy Columbian harpist, and Grégoire Maret, a virtuoso Swiss harmonica player, aren’t really battling here. As in any duo setting, they’re heavily reliant upon each other’s heightened responses, each showing an unrivaled command of their instrument. The two harps—a literal stringed piece of furniture and a wheezy backpocket slang iteration—hum across eight tunes. The Maret-penned opener, “Blueserinho,” eases in on his densely filtered breath, exhaling chords as Castaneda sets the tempo, both players quickly displaying a wealth of technique managing to hang on to an elemental funk.

Castaneda’s “No Fear” features another addition to the befuddling instrumentation parade: Béla Fleck’s banjo. Fleck and Castaneda double up at times, while Fleck fills the space with an arpeggiated stride. A few tracks on, Castaneda and Maret pay homage to another unorthodox duo album, bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Pat Metheny’s Beyond The Missouri Sky (Short Stories). “Our Spanish Love Song,” Haden’s composition, has a less-Spanish-inflected vibe here, as Castaneda plays both the Haden and Metheny roles, adding deep bass notes in spaces between strums, a slow-moving low end spelling out the tune’s simplicity. “Manhã De Carnaval” closes the set, Maret all little flourishes and bent notes, even as both artists peacefully fill the space without bogging it down with unnecessarily complicated instrumental feats. The two harpists dance in and out with no particular urgency, the unhurried vibe carried through the record to its conclusion.