CD review

Tom Remon and Jim Mullen – ‘Duality’

Tom Remon and Jim Mullen – Duality
(Lunaria Records. CD Review by John Arnett)

The title is a good one. Close inspection reveals a number of dualities underlying this most enjoyable album. For a start it is the work of a guitar duo, one starting out (although you’d never guess it) and the other, Jim Mullen, a distinguished veteran with an illustrious back catalogue, who needs little introduction. Tom Remon is a recent graduate of the Middlesex University jazz course, and Jazz Warriors alumnus. An important part of Lunaria Records’ mission is to introduce new talents, and as Tom Remon says, the album was an unforeseen and happy side effect of lockdown, recorded last year. Then there is the duality of the guitar itself, with its unique versatility as both a chordal or rhythm instrument and a melody or single line one. Accomplished guitarists, as amply demonstrated here, are able to switch fluently between both roles, often within the same piece. Finally there are, you could say, two sides to the material – eight wide ranging jazz repertoire standards, from Rogers and Hart to Joe Henderson and Dave Brubeck, alongside three Tom Remon originals.

Opening track “East of the Sun” sets the tone and gets things off to a resounding start, with its jaunty pace, bubbly melody and solo lines and beautiful warm sound. The understanding and interchange between the two players is plain to hear, right down to the razor sharp ending. Other highlights would have to include the swinging, uptempo reading of “Like Someone in Love” – as different as could be from the wistful vocal ballads of Chet Baker or Bjork, the versions that I knew, and bringing something new to a great melody. This itself was a distinct change of mood from preceding tune “Fall”, the Wayne Shorter composition from 1967 Miles Davis album “Nefertiti”, a slow angular ballad, full of space and atmosphere.

In the second half of the album, “Whisper not” is another high point, played with real feeling and momentum, and featuring a lovely extended solo. The rhythm guitar seems a little higher in the mix here, making for some subtle and dynamic interplay. The same is true of the next track, original composition “GPJ” a lively and spirited piece with solos from both guitarists. Because the tonal characteristics of both guitars are very similar, it is often a guessing game as to who is playing which part. The album sleeve gives no assistance here – the mystery is deliberate, no doubt. Final track “You and the Night and the Music” introduces a new and welcome variation on the time honoured theme/solos/return to theme pattern, and indeed on the rhythm guitar/melody guitar duality. The difference here is that there are no chords until near the end, when the melody comes in – just two delightful, interweaving, contrapuntal single note lines, used to dramatic effect.

Some might think that a little more variety overall would not have been a bad thing, in terms of tone, timbre and structure. But whether or not the classic sound of the unadulterated jazz guitar is your thing, this is a really engaging meeting of established and emerging talents.

LINK: Release date is 5 March 2021; Duality can be ordered from  Lunaria Records

Categories: CD review

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