One of the non-musical challenges every recording artist faces is what to title their records. There are doubtless many approaches to this task, from seeking serious inspiration to complete abdication to the record label. Joined at the Hip seems inspired because it so perfectly communicates the essence of this album: two saxophonists who play with the same jazz connective tissue and who have joined together to play some very hip bebop.
P J Perry and Campbell Ryga are two of Canada's--and North America's--finest jazz saxophonists, both with an impressive list of awards and recognition. Both have also chosen to keep their Canadian roots rather than blend in with the larger jazz landscape to their south.
To leave no doubt that bebop is where Perry and Ryga's hearts are at on this record, they open with the Charlie Parker tune, "Ah Leu Cha." This is a bebop classic that has been recorded not only by Parker but by other titans like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, and Steve Coleman. While some of these artists have turned up the speed dial on this tune to "blistering," Perry and Ryga run it at a nice, loping groove. Ryga takes the first string of solo choruses, followed by Perry. Ryga has the fatter and more aggressive sound on alto while Perry's is smoother and a bit more reminiscent of Parker's tone. Both do proper homage to pure alto sax bebop. Pianist Ross Taggart shows he can swing on his choruses too.
With two such outstanding solo artists on this record it would be surprising if they didn't each get a feature in a trio setting, and indeed they do. Perry takes the Adair/Dennis ballad standard, "Everything Happens To Me," one of Frank Sinatra's early hits with the Thomas Dorsey band. His gentle, facile alto is just right. Ryga is featured on the timeless "I Can't Get Started" and in character with his sound he plays it boldly, capturing the angst in the song's lyrics.
The rhythm section with Taggart, Neil Swainson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums does exactly what you would hope for: they lay the foundations of the tunes with grace, they swing, they play tastefully. A good bebop rhythm section also has to have the technical chops to play fast with a rock-solid sense of time, and these three fine musicians prove they are up to the task.
Recorded bebop seems at its best when it is live, and Joined at the Hip is not only live, it also proves that the bebop art form itself is alive and well.