Throughout his career, guitarist Greg Chako has had to do quite a few gigs "baseless." In doing so, he discovered that sometimes two can work just as well as three. Henceforth came the inspiration for this album. Recording in Japan, Chako is joined in turns by pianist Homei Matsumoto and Hiroshi Tanaka, as well as vocalist Andrea Hopkins. Every track has a few little surprises that come out in the interplay between the two musicians.
Unquestionably the best track featuring Hopkins is the duo’s rendition of "IF". Chako’s arpeggiated scales provide a lullaby-like background for Hopkins' smoky voice. Chako follows Hopkins' lead flawlessly, allowing her all the rhythmic and melodic freedom she needs to provide the album with this incredibly soulful song that may bring a tear or two to your eye. As beautiful as the song is, other tracks featuring Hopkins show a spunky side to her singing, such as the up tempo version of "Almost Like Being In Love".
"Who Can I Turn To?," featuring Tanaka, has Chako doing some soulful playing of his own. This time the piano takes a background role, providing comping as well as a bass line to the guitar melody. Chako takes a solo, playing off the melody and using several blues scales. The solo switch-off to Tanaka is flawless, with Chako immediately taking up a walking bass line as the pianist begins a similarly blues-inspired solo. The pair similarly switches back to Chako’s melody to finish the tune.
Lastly, Matsumoto is featured particularly well in "The Days of Wine and Roses," which also has some of Chako’s best solo work. The pair has a lot of interaction, and it seems to benefit both in terms of improvisation. The piece begins with a bright, capering introduction by Matsumoto, with Chako gradually adding into the background as they move into the melody. Matsumoto takes the first solo, using a lot of call and response between the left and right hands. Chako follows, using several of Matsumoto’s rhythmic and modulating licks. He also turns up the heat a bit, showing some quick fingerwork as well as some thoughtful melodic passages. To finish up, the two trade phrases, which again shows a lot of communication and several interesting musical ideas.
On the whole, the album has a consistently high level of musicianship, yet is still easy listening. Listening to it two or three times will show more of the skill behind the duo's harmonious sound.