Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron

Intakt CD 293

Joining an illustrious cast of percussion partners who have played in duo with Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer is American Joey Baron. No place for the faint of heart, Schweizer’s playing partners have ranged from Günter Baby Sommer to Andrew Cyrille. But considering that Baron’s background includes stints with everyone from Carmen McRae to John Zorn, he gives as much as he gets.

Curiously enough for two figures closely identified with so-called avant-garde Jazz, there are times when their connection reaches such a peak of unfettered swing that you could be listening to an Earl Hines-Jo Jones date or even Peter Johnson with a Blues drummer. Those sort of playful, allusions appears as early as “Free for All”, the first track, which is also contemporary enough to have that honky-tonk train move along on an imaginary track that is stretched and stretched almost to infinity without breaking. “Blues for Crelier” is the other obvious showcase, with enough flashy stops and beaks to give both players space. Elsewhere Baron further demonstrates his understated percussion mastery, with interjections that sound as if he’s bending the cymbals while dislocating the time and beat, often in tandem with the pianist. For her part Schweizer creates a harpsichord-like plinking on “String Fever”, and then reverses herself immediately afterwards and figuratively dives into the piano innards for low-pitched resonations.

Oddly enough though, despite the pianist’s stated background rooted somewhat in South African jive, and Baron’s long-time movement through cooler sound and some updated-Klezmer, the melodies that insinuate themselves most in these performances are those of Thelonious Monk. Rather than using his tunes as a fashionable aroma to perfume otherwise unaffiliated performances as some players do, Schweizer and Baron’s Monk allusions are used sparingly, plus arrive and exit logically, “Up the Ladder” for instance, which chugs along with drum pops and rolls, finds the pianist alternating among relaxed single fingering, expressive glissandi or exploring subterranean soundboard bursts with. When a quote from a Monk tune slips into the narrative, it does so logically and it vanishes as quickly as it appears. Additionally “Jungle Beat II” throws references to “Well You Needn’t” into the mix, pulls back for a texture-spanning four-limbs-at-once solo from Baron and ends the piece with the same simple swing that characterize “Up the Ladder”. Live is yet another reminder that Baron can swing with the best of them when he puts his mind to it. Obviously the cause of the drummer rising to the occasion, the disc also offers more of Schweizer’s still evolving playing and composing expertise.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Free for All 2. Up the Ladder 3. String Fever 4. Jungle Beat II 5. Saturdays

6. Blues for Crelier 7. The Open Window

Personnel: (Irène Schweizer (piano) and Joey Baron (drums)