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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Power of Two




Good News

One Life

Peri’s Scope

I’ll Wait and Pray

A New Day

KD Jr.

The Power of Two

The Duke


Into Your Grace

Whistling Spirits.

Steve Slagle (alto sax, flute) and Bill O’connell (piano)

Recorded September 2014, Trading 8s Studio [53:30]

The duo of Slagle and O’Connell is heard in its inaugural release. True, they’ve often collaborated in other groups but this is their debut disc in this stripped-down twosome form. And a fine job they’ve made of it, across eleven tracks – one less than a minute long – showing a sense of spirit and sensitivity, as well as cast-iron technical chops.

Five of the compositions are Slagle’s. Good News is a rolling swinger with some exultant, exuberant alto playing and artful piano prompts, whereas One Life is appropriately lyrical but suffused with bluesy hints and a sense of swing impulse. I’m not keen on the fade-out but for six minutes it held me throughout. Slagle plays flute on three tracks; he’s fast, elegant and genuinely witty on Bill Evans’s Peri’s Scope – itself a droll title, and a droll tune – but perhaps it’s A New Day, an O’Connell original that best shows the life-enhancing jauntiness of the album – the nonchalant piano introduction is picked up by Slagle, the two entwining over five minutes of lively interchange sure to please all but the most morose listener.

KD Jr was written for Kenny Drew who’d died at the age of 56. Slagle knew and performed with Drew and it was his passing that was largely the inspiration for the album. The track though is less in memoriam and more a celebration of a life, its vivacity an apt salute to Drew, and his continuing influence in mainstream pianism and music-making. The Monkish byplay of The Power of Two, the title track, is ingenious and the ballad Into Your Grace features an impressively expressive piano solo. The envoi is an intriguing and brief Whistling Spirits where circling flute voicings rise above allusive piano writing. It ends this lively and enjoyable album on a somewhat exploratory note.

Jonathan Woolf

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