Digby Fairweather and Stan Barker: The Definitive Duets Vol. 2

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This is a remarkable duet album, quite a tour de force, which Digby rightly regards with pride as a high-spot in his recording career.

Equipped with virtuoso technique and tonal dexterity to invite comparison with Charlie Shavers, he performs with brio and audacity founded on exceptional technical control. This allows confident busy mobility in high register to plummet recklessly, or cascade elegantly, into a growling and prowling exploration in the basement. While Ruby Braff’s small-group recordings are a detectable  influence, Digby’s fervent lyricism is very much his own, producing an intense flow of creative ideas.

The first three tracks are live, and Digby is off the mark confidently with a brightly feisty “Cheek to Cheek”, followed by an interesting treatment of “Perdido” and a movingly expressive version of  “But Beautiful”. The album then settles into mainly classic ballads mode, tempos ranging from slow to medium. These are studio recordings, but match the live tracks for expressive ideas, rapport and intensity of performance.

Much credit for the success of these sessions is due to Stan Barker’s subtle and appropriate backing, with its interactive responses. In several places, whilst his left hand keeps beat with block chords in Erroll Garner style, his right hand explores with fluent mobility, mirroring Digby’s exuberantly decorative phrasing. Passages of straight-ahead stride and swing piano urge along the general rhythmic momentum. “Who Can I Turn To?” is a deserved solo feature.
As Warren Vaché wrote of this album in its original line notes, “Well done, this is one to be proud of”. Indeed it is.

Discography
Cheek to Cheek; Perdido; But Beautiful; Mean to Me; It’s the Talk of The Town; Mood Indigo; You Turned the Tables on Me; Nancy with the Laughing Face; I Want a Little Girl; Lover Man; I Can Dream, Can’t I?; Who Can I Turn To?; Something to Remember You By (60.55)
Fairweather (c); Stan Barker (p). Southport Arts Centre, spring 1984.
Rose Cottage Records 007