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The duet has a long and varied history in Jazz, but it most often has involved at least one “harmony” instrument. Generally a piano or a guitar, perhaps even an accordion in a few recordings, but usually some instrument which is able to chord was paired with a horn, or for that matter almost anything. But then along came Ornette’s 4tet and the Mulligan-Baker 4tet, and it even became a trend to be free of that basic harmony instrument. Yet still, The Mulligan experiments included enough instruments so that harmony could be implied even if it wasn’t clearly played.
At that time this seemed to open the door to all kinds of spare adventuring, and so here we have three duos and one solo recording, all without that explicit harmony instrument. Now, because it was suddenly possible, even fashionable, to do without the harmonic cushion, doesn’t mean it was not still difficult to pull off. And the more odd the pairing, the more discipline and ingenuity were required by the musicians.
[True Events] captures the fruit of a long musical relationship. Trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum has played with drummer Tomas Fujiwara since their school days 15 years ago. Most of the recording is a sequence of compositions written by the duo based on their past musical experiences and long knowledge of one another’s playing. Only “The Emperor of Ice Cream” is a pure improvisation, and interestingly enough it is two or three times as long as the composed tracks. Fujiwara is a clever drummer with a strong musical sense so he is able to hold up the musical floor behind Ho Bynum’s lone trumpet. Ho Bynum has a fine range and a nice and colorful sense of when and how to use mutes to vary his sound. He is able to play pretty whole tones as well as flurries and smears and Bebop flights. So the duo succeeds, though the composed tracks (especially “Five Miniatures” which covers nearly the same ground as “the Emperor” in only half the time) are consistently more satisfying than the one long improvisation.