|Recorded January 2006.
The title on this one was inevitable given Konitz’s penchant for first name puns, but the session also presents precedence in the saxophonist’s storied career by pairing him with a Hammond B-3 on record. Upon first consideration, the combination is counterintuitive, especially in light of Konitz’s lithe and often intensely cerebral musical approach. The stereotypical room-filling power of an organ just doesn’t seem to jibe with his brainy style of improvisation. Gary Versace proves such assumptions dead wrong. Possessing a protocol on the instrument that goes against the grain of its common soul jazz applications, his laidback, but calculating contributions provide canny counterpoint to Konitz’s melodic interpolations.
The program is almost completely comprised of ballads, a decision that accentuates the duo’s rapport and further distances their intimate conversations from the norms associated with the instrumentation. “A-Blues” is the only original piece and here Konitz fattens his tone and appends a loping drawl to his phrasing. Versace’s accompaniment incorporates a lush tonal scope, segueing easily into a solo laced with a winding underlying bass line. They transform Trane’s “Giant Steps” into a languid waltz, Konitz caressing the usually careening theme while Versace adds molasses-thick comping behind him. On a delicate trip through Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On” Konitz concentrates his pitch to a lilting, near-soprano range. Versace responds with more shimmering swells and tenacious, but understated, patterns that subtly bring to mind the suggestions of a church hymn. His solo on “Sweet and Lovely” cycles through a short tour of tonal settings, once again buttressed by a smooth, but surefooted bass presence. His command of the keyboard is complete, but it’s coupled with a restraint and imagination splendidly suited to Konitz’s own keen temperament. To put it another way, Versace’s warmth complements Konitz’s cool.
The duo also heightens interest by according each other time alone. Konitz’s opening statement on Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” floats boldly on its own with Versace’s eventual chordal entrance made even more effective by the well-timed delay. Versace’s swirling spiritual strains on the choice slice of Ellingtonia “Come Sunday” offer another instance of less is more. As is often the case with Konitz, the delights come not in his song selections, but in the ways in which he and Versace pour new improvisatory nectar into the vessels. In both arrangement and execution, these shopworn standards once again gain the semblance and sheen of something new.
~ Derek Taylor