CD Review: Joachim Kühn & Alexey Kruglov – Moscow (Duo Art)

Joachim Kühn & Alexey Kruglov – Moscow (Duo Art)
(ACT 9623-2. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Sensing the electricity between two jazz instrumentalists ‘in conversation’ can be both fascinating and revealing – and when musicians of the calibre of Joachim Kühn and Alexey Kruglov join forces, it’s a safe bet that a sensory display of fireworks is in the offing. Certainly, in the case of this new release, Moscow, it’s a pretty special coming together for the pianist and alto saxophonist as part of ACT’s expanding Duo Art series.

Joachim Kühn has been a central figure to the German jazz scene since the ’60s, recording for many years on Siggi Loch’s label. Celebrating his seventieth birthday on March 15th this year, the story goes that Kühn, seeking musicians who might join him for two concerts in Moscow, had Russian saxophonist Alexey Kruglov recommended to him. He discerned much of his own creative, musical personality in this remarkable player (of half his years), so much so that the two like-minded jazz talents quickly forged a partnership which first found them on stage together – and then, immediately after, recording in the studio. Incredibly, what is heard here in this sixty-minute dialogue was recorded in only four hours, Kühn professing, “It’s the feeling that counts.”

Kruglov’s opener, Poet, almost encapsulates everything one needs to know about this collaboration, yet instantly creates a desire to hear what else might be conjured in these eight expansive tracks (pianist and saxophonist share the album’s writing credits, along with interpretations of two Ornette Coleman numbers). Kühn’s broad, searching, pedal-bass piano encourages a memorable ‘tv-theme’ sax melody which opens out into fascinating individual exploration for both musicians (including a beautiful piano ‘cadenza’ section), as well as tangibly demonstrating their empathy. At almost ten minutes in length, Because of Mouloud… provides a wide canvas for the duo to create and intensify their improvisations. Nothing is held back – Kühn’s initial fifths-grooving left-hand and unison piano/sax tune deconstruct into an exciting arena of the jagged and the screeching, with Kruglov’s squawking, rapidly-keyed alto echoed by high piano chattering, before a melodic reconvening. The lush Waltz For You, for all its gentle first impression and maintained dance tempo, again finds both players flying high with dazzling runs; and Ornette Coleman’s Researching Has No Limits – previously solo-recorded by Kühn (and perhaps an apt title here) – becomes increasingly agitated and nervously charged.

Joachim Kühn’s Desert Flower features barren, descending piano impressionism, followed by the relatively brighter awakening of Coleman’s Homogenous Emotions – the Kühn/Kruglov partnership melds particularly effectively here, characterised by the breadth of their skittering and thunderous techniques. Colourful Impressions stands out for the incessant, hard-edged brashness of Kruglov’s extreme reed calls which prompt a lively piano answer, ultimately combining in what might be described as a polychromic frenzy! A subtly comedic, jaunty finale is to be found in Phrasen, the duo almost vying for a first-past-the-post finish – breathless and exhilarating.

Infused with passion, verve and unrestrained experimentation, Moscow unequivocally displays the intent of the Duo Art concept – pairing outstanding musicians to capture, for a moment in time, their unadorned and skilful interactions. (Released 10 March, 2014.)

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