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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

John Blum and Jackson Krall - Duplexity (Relative Pitch, 2020) ****

By Paul Acquaro

When I first put on the drum and piano duo of John Blum and Jackson Krall, I felt a familiar sensation. It was that same, immediate and visceral reaction that I felt the day I stuck Cecil Taylor's Conquistador into my car's CD player, driving away from Jack's Music Shoppe in Red Bank, NJ, where I had just bought a used copy of it, oh so many years ago. It was a shot of adrenalin mixed with the warm satisfaction of developing an (instantly) acquired taste. Weird, but not unattractive, unusual and pulsating music delivered with force and a sixth sense of what fits where.

Blum's bona fides are bountiful: he's played with a international roster of the avant-garde elite and studied with the likes of Taylor, Borah Bergman, Milford Graves, and Bill Dixon, so making this comparison actually does not seem so outlandish. His partner here, Jackson Krall, also has a connection with Taylor, as he played with him in the pianist's later career, and brings sensitivity and intensity to this duo date.

The two tracks that make up Duplexity are plentiful in intuitive choices and decisiveness. One never feels like there is a lull in ideas or a browse through aisles of inspiration, 'Blood and Bone' starts things off fast with a crash of chords and high-energy snare roll. After this, the speed and certainty at which the duo goes at it is certainly the result of the thirty of years of experience they have playing live together. Krall plays with the density of his drum work, sometimes busier than others, but always adding something. The second track 'Wind and Wing' may even be more intense than the first. Here, after a crisp explosion of arpeggios from Blum, Krall ups the intensity with a shower of percussive sparks. The ensuing track then actually seems to feel a bit lighter, but it never looses its drive. 

The two's approach, a duality of interlocking complexity, converges effortlessly in the uniquely captivating Duplexity


Gary Chapin said...

Conquistador! You got my attention. I will listen. Great write up.