Reviewer: Matt Marshall
The first recording in pianist Randy Klein’s “Two Duos” series (for Jazzheads label he founded in 1991).
Sunday Morning pits Klein alternately against (or in consort with) trombonist Chris Washburne and saxophonist Oleg Kireyev – the album’s 12 tunes split evenly between the two duos. The result is a record deeply involved with a languorous, moody blues-tinged music that can stir the soul even if the body remains reclined.
Overall, the pieces with trombone, perhaps surprisingly, prove to kick harder than those with sax, if this album can rightly be said to contain anything that truly kicks. The opener, “Hiding Out”, finds Klein and Washburne advancing a stop-and-go motion that soon swells with an anthemic quality – shades of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra material. “I Caught You in a Lie” adopts an oompah piano groove over which Washburne drives a melodic, yet forceful tune. “Doo Boo Bop” follows a similar line, sounding like a brother to the famous “Patricia” from La Dolce Vita. Klein’s piano cuts and jolts heavily on his solo, but in the final minute he exchanges pieces of the samba-esque melody with Washburne, highlighting the give and take that drives the entire record. On the final three tunes from this pairing, the mood turns wistful. “House on the Hill” is a heavy, almost mournful type of Bossa Nova with both Klein and Washburne coursing the lower reaches of their instruments. “Petits Pois”, conversely, is sweetly melodious, sentimental. While Her Beautiful Soul” appropriately relies on melodic and harmonic lines that explore a more substantial, though still pretty space.
The first few raspy phrases from Kireyev’s sax on “Truly Yours” generate a relaxed, after-hours feel that will dominate much of the work the reed-man conducts with Klein. The tune – and Kireyev’s sound, in particular – recalls Coleman Hawkin’s “Night Hawk” or “La Rosita” with Ben Webster. The sax’s mouthpiece is a constant, woody presence – the frayed edges of each note allowing you to almost taste the frayed edges of each note allowing you to almost taste the filtering reed against your tongue. Even on “Sunday Morning”, when Klein dances a spirited, perky piano line – a sunny, 9 a.m. coffee song, say – Kireyev still sounds involved with happenings from an earlier hour, when night and morning converge and for a time threaten to escape the clock altogether.
This noir mood is carried over into the duo’s next tune, “Now I Wonder”, but on “I’ve Got an Itch” feet start a-tappin’. Klein’s piano chops through sparse, yet vibrant vamps, while Kireyev releases boogying bop lines. The duo’s sound is tough yet mischievous on “Lottery Day”, then, on the album’s final number, ”Fly Free”, soft and melancholy, with Kireyev’s reed percolating the moisture from his breath.
As Klein remarks in the liner notes, “In a duo performance, both players are always totally exposed”. Still, there’s nothing of stage fright in any of the playing here. The musicians seem rather to be lounging about in their Sunday morning PJs, discussing openly and without conceit the particulars of their lives and the world at large. The interplay is honest and familial and, even at its darkest, hums with a warm, jovial appreciation of being alive and participating fully in life.