My fondness for the rich tradition of reeds-percussion duos in free jazz has proven to be a very fortunate predilection for my ears. Through Andrew Barker’s duo with Charles Waters, I first became acquainted with Barker’s work. With a series of not so many releases on great small labels, like qbico and Earmark records during the late 90’s and early 00’s, the duo formed an extraordinary, yet underrated, body of work where free jazz blowouts, intense solos, and collective playing were followed by mellower moments. Skill, energy and pathos was woven tightly throughout all of the recordings. Now it seems, (with hope that this is a collaboration that will continue to flourish) that Barker has found again a likeminded someone to form a new duo.
I haven’t spent that much time listening to Mikko Innanen’s music, but it’s almost immediately after you start listening to his playing, when you realize that here we have a reedsman that moves easily from tradition to improvisation and back again. He is also someone who has collaborated with great musicians-practitioners of the improvisational ethos like Andrew Cyrille, Han Bennink, and William Parker.
This cassette, a nice edition of only fifty copies unfortunately, starts with some boppish lines from Innanen’s sax (who also plays bass clarinet) followed by Barker’s lush percussion work.
The duality of their playing is impeccable. Have they been playing for years, I asked myself. As the cassette plays on, you discover the qualities of the Finnish reedsman’s playing. Sharp tones blending melodies with improvisational gestures. He is a match, an equal to Barker’s skills, rest assured about this fact. They do not succumb to the, sometimes in free playing, easy solution of just bursting out. Their playing is a continuous line of gestures, melodies, changing easily between tonalities and improvisation. They articulate a sound that combines, or better finds a balance, between free playing and melody lines. There are only very few copies left, so go ahead and buy this one, support the artists and avoid paying, maybe, through the nose later, because this one is a great recording.
You can buy the cassette here: https://andrewbarker1.bandcamp.com/album/a-wink-is-as-good-as-a-nod