STRAYHORN DUETS…Christian Winther & Richard D. Johnson: Two People

I’m a sucker for jazz duets, as this reveals challenging interplay and improvisation like no other environment. Here, you’ve got an album by tenor saxist and clarinetist Christian Winther along with pianist Richard D. Johnson going through some intimate and clever readings of Billy Strayhorn.  Well crafted pieces by Ellington’s alter ego like these are a perfect vehicle for musical expression, with Johnson mixing traditional stride with modern voicings on material like “Take the A Train.”  His flowing piano on “Just Sittin’ and Rockin” leads lovingly to Winther’s coy and cozy clarinet, while his agitated and assertive chords chase Winther’s tenor on “Johnny Come Lately.” Winther himself has a wonderfully rich sound, demonstrated to perfection on U.M.M. G., while he agonizes over Johnson’s Lisztian piano on “Blood Count,” and shows that he took his Zoot Sims pills on the laconic “Intimacy of the Blues.” A relaxed conversation between two musical friends.

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