Jef Neve - p (myspace)
Pascal Schumacher - vib (myspace)
This duet is a spin-off of the Pascal Schumacher Quartet, in which Jef and Pascal have developed a rapport over the last four years. That rapport was put to the test right away, with a slightly-too-fingerbusting arrangement of "Alone Together" that zoomed through different modes of interaction and allowed for room to wiggle rather than defined spots for improvisation. It also mapped out the duo's territory: one that's demanding for the players, but immediately gratifying for listeners.
Interestingly, some of the duo's repertoire is made up of things that never really clicked in quartet format, but work well here. Bobby Hutcherson's "Sirius" was a case in point: a year ago at the Musée des Instruments de Musique, it had a twinkling-star-against-night-sky quality, this time it served to emphasise that more often than not, there was no accompanist, just the sum of intricate, tighty-wound interplay. The context allows Jef to play more full-bodied piano than he usually does, and he took full advantage of the space on Bud Powell's "Hallucinations," providing a strong walking bass line for an old-time swing feel. Another adaptation from the quartet's repertoire, a "Misterioso"/"Blue Monk" medley served as encore. After Jef's stripped-down blues playing, "Blue Monk's" theme was hilariously played in a dainty, stiffly aristocratic manner.
"Ancil" is one of Pascal's loveliest melodies, with its distilled, melancholy line that's left to hang in space long enough for its effect to sink in, but that feeling was lost as they grew louder and more emphatic. Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood" was more successful at preserving the lush ballad mood throughout, even after Pascal had finished toying with the unmistakeable first, rising phrase.
The instrumentation's more percussive possibilities were explored in "Wonder World," where simple, shimmering chords are rapidly pounded out in Minimalist fashion, occasionally blossoming into mist-shrouded melodies. You can hear a version of it on Pascal's MySpace page.
Jef Neve Trio, "Second Love" (excerpt)
Afterwards, Pascal told me a bit about the Quartet's just-mixed third record, Silbergrau. It will feature much of the repertoire they've been performing recently, along with a few improvised pieces. On a totally different topic, there was a suggestion that the Europe-as-Eldorado for certain big-name American musicians, who demand exorbitant fees, maybe be drawing to a close, due to fed up organisers...