Tenor saxophonist Edward Kidd Jordan and drummer Alvin Fielder have been a fixture in their southern outpost for nigh on forty years, but they've rarely been heard to such good effect as on Trio and Duo in New Orleans. This wonderful two CD set brings together music from three separate dates. The first disc (also available as a double LP) comprises a 70-minute exchange between the American pair and hugely talented peripatetic German bassist Peter Kowald in April 2002, five months before his untimely death, while the second marries a 2005 studio session from the Americans, with an excerpt from a concert in Houston in 2012.
The trio work in a rarefied atmosphere of spontaneous interaction, with Jordan in imperious form. It's not the threesome's first encounter: a striking selection from a previous meeting in 2000 occurs on Kowald's posthumous Off The Road (Rogue Art, 2006). Fielder and Jordan are superbly tuned in to each other, exemplified by the way the drummer's shift to a disjointed clatter breaks Jordan's flow and nudges him into more abstract territory midway through "Trio I." Conversely later in the piece, Fielder smoothly adjusts his attack to lock into the saxophonist's R&B inflected riffs. Such is the practiced give and take that it proves difficult for Kowald to gain purchase initially. He tends to achieve most traction when wielding his bow, when the seesawing conversation with Jordan's falsetto grabs the ears. Overall it's a great performance, strongest when Kowald comes onto Jordan's turf in the later sections, walking powerfully behind the saxophonist's stratospheric preaching.
Fine as the trio session is, it's the studio set which constitutes the highlight of the double header. Captured in close detail, both Jordan and Fielder are at their most engaging. Jordan has melded his short rhythmic phrases, characteristic altissimo squawks and earthy honks into a deeply personal language, both impassioned and incantatory. Fielder makes an accomplished foil, shading the saxophonist, adding dramatic color to his lines, but also laying down a sturdy substructure, recalling the late Denis Charles at times with his tuneful cadences and simple but forceful rhythms. It sounds as if the drummer still abides by his philosophy, related in a 2002 radio interview, to play his free music as tight as possible.
At just shy of 20-minutes, "Duo Flight" forms a muscular centerpiece, chock full of energy and ideas. Contrasting with the rest of the cuts, "E. Fashole-Luke" makes use of a Jordan tune as the launch pad, evoking Trane in its reiterated high octane theme. It contains a lovely passage from the reedman part ways through where he alternates registers to create a call and response dynamic. The concluding 10-minute "Nameless Sound Duo" comes from another live gig, in Houston in 2012, and while it features some first-rate combinations, doesn't amplify what has gone before, except in the enthusiastic audience acclamation which acts as a fitting send off for this visceral and exciting collection. (AllAbout Jazz)
Limited edition of 300 records