Recording information: Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (12/22/2015).
Photographer: R. Andrew Lepley.
Saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter have a duo partnership that goes back at least as far as their two 1990 recordings, Something in Common and Now's the Time! Since those albums, the legendary artists have released several more duo collaborations, each one a thoughtful and minimalist production showcasing their masterful command of jazz standards, blues, and bop. The duo's 2016 effort, the aptly titled Chemistry, is no exception and once again finds Person and Carter communing over a well-curated set of jazz standards. As on their previous albums, Chemistry is a deceptively simple conceit; just two jazz journeymen playing conversational duets on well-known jazz songs. At face value, that is certainly what you get. The deception enters into the equation with just how masterful and nuanced Person and Carter are in each song. Whether it's the way Carter anchors the duo's yearning reading of "But Beautiful" with his languorous, doomy basslines, or the way Person's languorous rubato introduction joins up with Carter on "Fools Rush In," they never fail to find surprising and deeply emotive ways to interpret each song. Similarly, cuts like the poignant "Blame It on My Youth" and the dewy-eyed "I Can't Get Started" are endearing romantic numbers that cradle the listener in the warmth of Person and Carter's warm tones. Elsewhere, they deliver a gleeful version of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk," and summon the memory of Carter's former boss, trumpeter Miles Davis, with their jaunty take on "Bye Bye Blackbird." Ultimately, Chemistry is a lovely, heartfelt album of well-loved standards imbued with the duo's decades of experience. ~ Matt Collar