CD Review: Benn Clatworthy and Cecilia Coleman - 2

Benn Clatworthy and Cecilia Coleman - 2
(BCM 111. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Benn Clatworthy and Cecilia Coleman first met almost three decades ago, when they were studying in Los Angeles with vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake. A few years later, Coleman appeared on Clatworthy’s début recording as a leader (“Thanks Horace”), and he reciprocated by working on hers (“Words of Wisdom”) shortly afterwards. Their compatibility was obvious from the outset, but it has blossomed since those early days and they have enjoyed well-received tours of the USA and the UK in recent times. 2 is their first duet CD.

Many of the nine selections are ideal for the saxophone/piano format. The sheer strength of Paul McCartney’s melody Here, There and Everywhere makes it work; Clatworthy’s tone on tenor sax is highly distinctive but there isn’t a hint of improvisation during the first two minutes. Lush Life is very conversational, as is the saxophonist’s tune In Strayhorn’s Bag, which is suitably infused with the style of its subject.

Other things are more surprising. The harmonic treasure trove of Giant Steps gains melodic value as both musicians skirt around the chords. They listen carefully, and execute tricky touches that accentuate the quality of the writing and retain its rhythmic bite. The immediacy is palpable and it is hard to believe that this, and indeed every piece on the disc, is a first take.

Clatworthy’s workhorse is a tenor sax, but his attractive Bossa Mia features flute, and Our Destiny Now is a haunting and beautifully-constructed work that has extremely strong work on soprano saxophone. Maturity and experience are embedded in these original compositions, but it’s their sparkle and freshness that make them the highlights of a very fine album.

Coleman takes full advantage of her short solo opportunities, building tension and then resolving it beautifully. She incorporates ideas from all over the place – the subtlety of Kenny Barron, then a sudden Tyner-ish flourish - but is in thrall to nothing but her own fertile imagination.

At the end, I’ll Be Seeing You is just right: unsentimental, and greatly affecting. Here, and throughout the CD, the lack of clutter focuses attention on the beauty of the music and the communication between the two people playing it. One hopes that Clatworthy and Coleman will play together in the UK again soon.

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