Michael Bisio: acoustic bass; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet.
Bassist Michael Bisio and trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, two relevant contributors in the improvised jazz panorama, got together at Park West Studios in Brooklyn to shape the six tunes that would be included in Row For William O.
Bisio dedicates this album to William O. Smith (better known as Bill Smith), a clarinetist, composer, and educator who occasionally recorded with Dave Brubeck and had a hand in Shelly Manne’s Concerto for Clarinet & Combo.
The constructive duo opens with one of the honoree’s compositions entitled “Drago”, which exposes the theme’s melody in a gorgeous unison and is designed with absorbing grooves and stimulating swinging sections.
The title track gets a classical chamber feeling during its four-minute introductory section, in which we can appreciate the distinctive bowing bass of Bisio and fill our ears with the intuitive language of Knuffke. Throughout the subsequent section, the tune seems to veer into a ballad but the idea never took practical effect. At this phase, Bisio enjoys a great solo moment while Knuffke, showing an enviable control of the trumpet, explores different sounds.
Exaggerating in the title’s length but not in the focal daintiness of its intonations, Bisio’s “I Want To Do To You What Spring Does to Cherry Trees” is a more intimate journey gradually expands.
Resorting to a tight complicity and wistful abstraction, “December”, composed by the duo, often moves within complex textures created by Bisio's asynchronous plucking of strings.
“To Birds…”, the closing tune is the opposite, a question-and-answer ritual that stands at the crossroads of classical and chamber jazz.
But the most appealing track on this recording is Bisio’s “Oh See O.C.”, a wonderful model in the art of improvising. A persistent and unusual swinging bass groove finds existential purpose in the impulsive contortions of the trumpet phrases.
Bisio and Knuffke take advantage of their elevated technique to better complement each other.
Although in need of some mood changes, Row For William O. provides us with contrasting pitches and timbres that assure a fun ride.
01 – Drago ► 02 – Row For William O. ► 05 – Oh See O.C.