Here is the introduction I wrote for my first posting about a wonderful evening of intimate, powerful improvisation created by these two great players. (You can hear the music at https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/soul-searching-joel-press-and-michael-kanan-at-smalls-oct-20-2011/).
I told both Michael Kanan (piano) and Joel Press (tenor and soprano saxophones) that I had been waiting a few years to hear them perform as a duo. I knew that they had done this informally for twenty-five years in their respective studios and even appeared in public (probably in the Boston area) but I had always heard them in less intimate settings. Last Thursday, October 20, 2011, I had my chance, and the music was memorable.
Michael is younger than Joel, whom he met when he was only seventeen or eighteen, and he looks up to the saxophonist with love and reverence — as a great melodic improviser, someone full of surprises, able to create new things on the most familiar standard. But Joel, for his part, says he keeps learning from Michael — and hearing the depths and subtleties of Michael’s playing, it’s no hyperbole.
It would be very easy to skate over the surface of these familiar songs, but these two players know what it is to listen, to respond, to improvise. It’s lovely to witness the deep, playful interchanges of artists so attuned to one another yet so able to take off on small experimental impulses. Their friendship and telepathy imbue every note, every phrase.
Here’s the second, magical set.
Monk, cryptic and irresistible as ever — WELL, YOU NEEDN’T:
Michael offered the verse of YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO — with great tenderness:
SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE — fattening but delicious:
ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE, with a sweet Lestorian bounce:
It was dark inside and outside, perhaps leading Joel to think of the Bud Powell – Sonny Still variations on THESE FOOLISH THINGS called SUNSET:
GET OUT OF TOWN — swinging, rather than abruptly dismissive:
A searching improvisation based on OUT OF NOWHERE:
Something funky and delightful — RED TOP. Smalls doesn’t sell food, but I thought I could smell spareribs:
They ended the evening — reluctant to stop playing — while waiting for the next band to arrive — with an impromptu yet heartfelt BODY AND SOUL:
I have it on good authority that Joel will be back in New York this coming month (November 2011) and for more news about Michael, check this out: