MY Duo was formed in 2008 and this new album issued by the duo’s Joy and Ears label is a studio affair recorded at London’s Livingston studio in November 2012 and January 2013. It follows 2011’s Places And Other Spaces (Edition), with its experimenting “instant compositions” a feature, and debut My Duo (another Joy and Ears release).
The piano/saxophone duo are joined by the Elysian Quartet, violinists Emma Smith and JennyMay Logan, violist Vince Sipprell, and cellist Laura Moody. Less searing than the duo’s earlier work but still challenging, Juntos succeeds in prising open the often slammed shut glass door that deters true exchange between chamber-jazz and chamber-contemporary classical music, the notated and improvised disciplines with their different traditions and languages.
Sombre on ‘London Light’, serialist almost, long exploratory legato phrases freighted with meaning and subdued emotion glide over long elegiac phrases or, in other parts of the album, the duo dance in the twilight with puckish intent, Yarde’s soprano saxophone on ‘Nice Cup of Tea’ at the beginning enlivened by the brittle push and pull of McCormack’s Andrew Hill-like interjections.
‘Always of You (and the Love of Paris)' shows another aspect of the duo’s work, Yarde’s honest and warm romantic theme a surprise in the context and a huge highlight. An album where conversational range is important, none of the players here are going to bother with the small talk of stock routines.
The music was written by McCormack and Yarde separately, or sometimes together, and the duo also combine with the Elysians on ‘Other With Others’ and ‘How The Other Half Live’. If you like the Basquiat Strings (both Smith and Logan were members) you’ll probably like this although there's less of an Ornette Coleman influence and rhythmically it’s very different as a general observation.
Both Yarde and McCormack are two of the UK’s best improvisers of their generation and have already been recognised by the classical world as composers in their own right while the jazz community takes them a little bit too much for granted. Their best work to date MYDuo remain in the vanguard of the most innovative experimental jazz produced anywhere in England today. SG
Closer to the edge: Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde, above