Veteran pianist Kenny Barron and virtuoso violinist Regina Carter have collaborated on one of the best albums of 2001. "Freefall" is an immensely enjoyable set of duets that may become a landmark recording. It is both immediately accessible upon the first listen and remains transfixing to mine the rich tapestry of musical styles and moods.
The oft-performed "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" is played sprightly with masterful excursions that make stand up and notice and maybe even dance or at least sway a bit. An evocative piece that is a killer beginning. In contrast, "Fragile" is superficially stately, graceful and reserved with distinct melancholic undertones. Barron and Carter capture the whimsy and playfulness of Monk's "Misterioso." The free associations are like a child's attention span. The piece moves rapidly through the blues and Bop eras. Barron begins "Phantoms" that is tender and Carter joins to juxtapose that with a slightly eerie and ominous quality. Her playing is rueful and evokes a gypsy camp setting.
What if Hungarian classical composer Bela Bartok and Thelonious Monk were thrown together in Monk's New York apartment in the 1950s and composed a piece together? It might sound like Barron's "What If." It is slyly unpredictable and deliciously dissonant. "Freefall," composed by Barron and Carter, is another piece that is reminiscent of the classical but relatively unknown American composer, Henry Cowell. It is strange and radical and feels like what life might have been like in post World War One.
Johnny Hodges "Squatty Roo" is thrown into the mix as a short jaunty swing-era romp, while 'shades of Gray" may be a tribute to jazz saxophonist Wardell Gray who died under mysterious circumstances in 1955 Las Vegas. The piece nevertheless is sad, respectful and simply beautiful.
"Freefall" has no loose ends. There is no filler. Each piece works. Each piece is played masterfully. "Freefall" is magnificent. This is jazz at its best.