In life we tend to make hard distinctions between the value of conversation and the worth of action, crystalizing such a dividing line with statements like “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words.” Jazz, however, has a way of relating the two. When musicians get together to play, the talk is
the action. Every opportunity to play with others is a chance to open the lines of communication, and albums like this remind us that the deeper the rapport, the more expressive the dialogue.
Conversations is the culmination of a quarter century’s worth of meaningful communication between bassist Joris Teepe and saxophonist Don Braden. Since connecting in 1992, they’ve been sidemen together, toured the Old Country as a team on multiple occasions, worked for each other, and recorded as co-leaders. Their friendship and kinship is written in a collective sound, manifesting itself in entwined and aligned harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic gestures. When they get down to it, every thought’s ending serves as a new beginning and every moment is a moment to be savored.
These ten songs frame the Teepe-Braden partnership in two different ways. Three numbers, recorded back in the winter of 2009, present this pair with no additional players in the mix; the remaining seven, recorded in the spring of 2016, find them working with one of two world-class drummers—Gene Jackson on three numbers and Matt Wilson on four. All are gems, sitting well next to one another and never betraying the long space between sessions. It all sounds like it could’ve been recorded on the same day.
There are no “chording” instruments to be found here, but there’s little to no absence of harmonic stability or implication in these performances. When you hear Braden, Teepe and Wilson swing away on “It’s You Or No One,” you don’t miss a piano at all. The same can be said about the Jackson-enhanced group’s sly trip through “Footprints” in five, a cool-headed “Our Love Is Here To Stay” with Braden’s romanticized tenor working atop the locked-in Teepe-Wilson swing, and the open-eared trip through “Humpty Dumpty” that opens the album.
Teepe and Braden each have a deep understanding of the tradition, evident in their interplay, choice of repertoire, and technical showmanship. But neither man lets tradition get in the way of things. Hearing the evolution of Wilson’s “Stolen Time,” where a curious and pleasant pas de deux for flute and bass evolves into a frolicking journey with cymbals providing momentum, and observing the open-mindedness in solo stands and two-way exchanges, most evident on the duo’s trip through Kurt Weill’s “This Is New,” makes that clear as day. Teepe and Braden bring new meaning to the idea of “talking a good game” with this album. It’s a wonderful treat to be a fly on the wall during their conversations.
Track Listing: Hunpty; Three Card Molly; Goodbye Porkpie Hat; Eddieish; This Is New; Footprints; Stolen Time; It’s You Or No One; Our Love Is Here To Stay; We Take No Prisoners.
Personnel: Joris Teepe: bass; Don Braden: tenor saxophone, flute; Gene Jackson: drums (2, 4, 6); Matt Wilson: drums (1, 7-9).
Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced