|In music as in sports, the best players always make whatever they do seem deceptively easy. Guitarist Nick Perrin and pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl are so loose and casual that one might think they were jamming in a basement or garage instead of cutting an album in a recording studio, belying the years of study, discipline and hard work it took to get them to that point. The duo format requires unremitting focus and the ability to listen carefully and respond immediately to whatever ideas one’s partner is laying down. Perrin and von Wattenwyl have that down to a science.
On the other hand, one of the pitfalls of a duo session is that one of the collaborators may, through no fault of his own, overshadow the other. Unluckily, that is the case here, as von Wattenwyl’s piano is recorded far too prominently, so much so that one’s ear is irresistibly drawn to it, even when Perrin is soloing. It’s not that von Wattenwyl is especially heavy-handed, simply that the uneven mix stymies his every effort to get out of the way. As the piano is inherently more percussive than the guitar, Perrin is often submerged beneath von Wattenwyl’s chords, counterpoint and crescendos.
Aside from that, this is a splendid session by a couple of world-class musicians, and there’s no reproving the choice of material. After opening with a toe-tapping version of Louis Alter’s classic (and timely) “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” the duo adeptly interprets jazz standards by Charlie Parker, Clare Fischer, Denzil Best and Ellington/Strayhorn, plus Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” Jerome Kern’s “In Love in Vain,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well Be Spring,” and charming originals by Perrin (“Someday in April”), Benny Green (“That’s Right”) and Larry Willis (“To Wisdom the Prize”).
In spite of its problematic balance (the sound is otherwise crystal-clear), this album is worth hearing for its exceptional artistry and the perceptive interplay between von Wattenwyl and Perrin. AAJ May