Label: GB Records, 2018
Personnel - Adrean Farrugia: piano; Joel Frahm: tenor and soprano saxophones.
Canadian pianist Adrean Farrugia and American saxophonist Joel Frahm share a common musical view, demonstrating a deep understanding of each other’s moves in their duo album Blued Dharma. The musicians, who play together since 2009 as members of drummer Ernesto Cervini’s groups, tackle five original compositions by Farrugia and two standards, using diversity and musical compatibility as their best advantages. Of course, this wouldn't be possible if they weren’t great instrumentalists with well-developed languages and a knack for rich storytelling forms.
The proof arrives with the opening tune, “Blued Dharma”, a melodious folkish song that navigates on top of a poignant harmonic progression. Frahm's solo is structured as a crescendo, having his resolute soprano lines being buoyed by Farrugia's crisp accompaniment. Over the course of his improvisation, the pianist adopts a Jarrett-esque style, guaranteeing the linearity of the bass on the left side and creating a beautiful mix of single-note rides and exciting trills on the right. Everything works in favor of a poised, thrilling texture.
While the pop ballad “For Murray Gold”, a homage to the English composer cited in its title, is introduced with a calm rubato deliberation, falling into a 4/4 medium tempo to sustain the improvisations, “Gospell” shows the duo’s devotion to the gospel genre through soulful lines dropped onto awe-inspiring circular harmonies.
“Cool Beans” is an 18-bar blues whose groove shifts registers as convenient. Blowing the tenor sax with precision, Frahm draws some excitement by employing boppish phrases that never neglect timbral exploration. He excels even more on the closing tune, “Half Moon (For Sophia)”, a joyful, fragile, yet danceable piece in which he unleashes myriad logic notes on the soprano, infusing positive vibes into the casual mood.
The two selected standards were “Nobody Else But Me”, presented in a more classic way with occasional fugue-like passages, and two different versions of “Cherokee”, deliciously swirling explorations that meld classical innuendos and uplifting jazz bounces with a free posture.
This is a sparkling, affable record to enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere.
01 - Blued Dharma ► 02 - Cherokee II ► 08 - Half Moon (For Sophia)