Geri Allen first played with Kurt Rosenwinkel’s group in July 2012 and so enjoyed the experience that they booked a duo date for later in the year at the Jazz de la Villette festival in Paris. With no time for a rehearsal, and barely time to catch their breath, the two took to the stage and delivered a sublime concert, the first and only time they ever played together. Their intention was to continue their creative partnership in the studio, but fate intervened, and Allen died tragically in 2017.
On paper, the dynamic Allen and the laconic Rosenwinkel might not have a lot in common, but here they prove to be virtuosic soulmates, enthralling the listener with layers of ambiguous but elegant expression on both the three standards and an original apiece.
Billy Strayhorn’s title track is austerely romantic, Rosenwinkel delivering some fine upper-register lines as Allen comps gently beneath him, while their slow and lengthy treatment of the Gershwins’ Embraceable You is both lush and enigmatic. Monk’s Ruby My Dear gets the most radical rework, Rosenwinkel’s solo introduction giving no clue as to what song will follow until the main theme is delivered in an achingly slow tempo first on guitar and then faster by an increasingly agitated Allen.
This being a live set, we get the usual spoken introductions, each performer introducing the other’s composition. Rosenwinkel’s Simple #2 is far from simple as it strolls through its strong melodic lines and engaging harmonies, while Allen’s Open Handed Reach is a delicate song that gives both musicians room to explore their more sensitive sides, Allen in particularly expansive form.
Allen and Rosenwinkel are not an obvious pairing, but this mesmerising concert provides a glimpse of what might have been. An unexpectedly moving set.
A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Embraceable You; Geri’s Introductions; Simple #2; Ruby My Dear; Kurt’s Introductions; Open Handed Reach (53.29)
Allen (p); Rosenwinkel (g); Live, Philharmonie de Paris, 5 September 2012.