Album reviews

Matt Holborn/Kourosh Kanani – ‘A Duo’

Matt Holborn/Kourosh Kanani – A Duo

(Le Jazzetal Records – Album Review by Mark McKergow)

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Violinist Matt Holborn and guitarist Kourosh Kanani present a delightful set of standards given their own intensive and engaging treatment.  The results are a treat for the ear, with a depth of repertoire and style showing their experience and communication.

Talk of a violin/guitar duo instantly suggests the seminal pairing of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt with the Quintette du Hot Club de France, and this is indeed the jumping off point here.  However, it’s far from the end point.  Holborn and Kanani have been playing together for more than a decade and clearly have a mutual understanding and relationship that has evolved on the bandstand in the kind of hard-sweating way that gives them a real head-start when it comes to putting down their ideas on record.

Kourosh Kanani (interviewed here in 2014) grew up in Leeds of Iranian/Irish descent and has explored many musical facets from John Coltrane to Iranian classical music.  He show real dexterity on his acoustic guitar, including delicious modulations and substitutions alongside a fine pounding ‘pompe’ rhythm which he deploys judiciously.  Matt Holborn was born in Hull, raised in Edinburgh and has also explored a variety of musical styles including Eastern European and Hindustani. He also runs the Jazz Violin podcast (well worth a listen if you’re at all keen on jazz fiddle and its practitioners). Together they bring an exceptional range of possibilities to bear on their music.

Their repertoire is an important part of the equation on this recording. Yes, there are some classics of the jazz Manouche (gypsy) tradition among the eight tracks. Django Reinhardt takes a share of the spoils with the swinging Double Scotch, taken at a scorching pace with Kanani extending himself over the boppish harmonies.  Reinhardt’s Melodie Au Crepescule is a calmer piece, Holborn finessing the melody over the generous guitar backing.

Alongside these we also get some standards from different eras of jazz; the opening All Of You moves out from its introduction into a satisfying swinger. Someday My Prince Will Come, so beloved of Bill Evans, is given a floating reading with a lovely ambiguity of beat, pushes and pulls, and a chance for both participants to shine.  And when was the last time you heard Oliver Nelson’s bluesy Butch And Butch tackled in this format, my own favourite track on the album which has both Holborn and Kanani stretching out with some virtuosic phrase-swapping.

A Duo is only available as a download for now, releasing on 28 February 2022. A CD release may come later in the year.  But please, don’t wait! This set has a great deal to offer, whether you are Manouche, mainstream or simply mad for beautifully performed jazz.

Links : A Duo on Matt Holborn’s Bandcamp

LJN interview about the Jazz Violin Podcast

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