Album Review: Paul Kimber & Phil Merriman – Duos, Duets and Duels

Paul Kimber & Phil Merriman 

Duos, Duets and Duels

 

Paul Kimber (bass), Phil Merriman (piano)

 

Jazz Records JRCD115

Available from www.jazzrecords.co.uk

 

    Despite being pioneered by no less than Duke Ellington and his prodigious sideman Jimmy Blanton, the bass and piano duet is a rarely encountered format in jazz, or anywhere else. It’s a challenge to write convincingly and sustain interest within the limitations of two instruments usually seen paired together in an accompanying role. Paul Kimber and Phil Merriman rise to the occasion on this album, beautifully recorded at Ovingdean’s Retreat studio. Kimber’s facility with a bow adds an extra voice, which helps vary the texture, but the strength of this recording lies in the care he’s taken on the compositions and arrangements. The sixteen originals span a stylistic range that’s rooted in blues-inflected jazz, but also artfully incorporate hints of a kaleidoscope of 20th century  styles from stride piano to bossa nova to tango to popular songwriters, with chromatic diversions borrowed from the modernists woven in so subtly that they blend in seamlessly.  There’s plenty of memorable melody, evocative tonescapes, artful rhythm arrangements, just enough solo space to show off their chops, and such variety and attention to detail in the writing that you barely register the absence of other musicians. Both participants play superbly throughout, with an audible empathy that suggests an enviable level of mutual respect. The residing impression is of a series of exquisitely crafted miniatures, delivered with a great deal of wit, good humour and unobtrusive virtuosity. Highly recommended for aficionados of piano/bass duets, or of good music in general. 

 

Eddie Myer