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Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson - Temporary Kings (ECM)

5 December 2018

Duet records can be a challenge, especially if neither musician is part of the usual rhythm section. But acclaimed saxophonist Mark Turner and former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson make it seem easy on Temporary Kings. Given the pair’s membership in veteran drummer Billy Hart’s ensemble, you’d think they’d bring the master’s innate sense of swing to the proceedings. There’s certainly some of that – check out the pair’s jaunty cover of Warne Marsh’s “Dixie’s Dilemma” – but Iverson and Turner instead concentrate on a blend of jazz and modern chamber music. Taking inspiration from Marsh and maverick pianist Lennie Tristano, the twosome derives its sound from both the dynamics of small-group classical performances and the vertical improvisation style of Marsh and Tristano, relying on harmony as often as melody. Iverson’s “Unclaimed Freight” and title track don’t stint on excitement, but feel more like classical pieces than jazz riffs, an approach to which Iverson’s precise but playful fingerings and Turner’s ear-stroking are particularly suited. Similarly, the saxist’s “Seven Points” twists its melody sideways, pouring the cream of his tone over the spice of Iverson’s keyboard work. Then there’s Turner’s ballad “Myron’s World,” the sensitive, lovely performance of which emphasizes why this tuneful piece is on its way to becoming a jazz standard. The rhythm sectionless approach leaves no room for bombast or explosions, but the two musicians’ tasteful skills and distinctive touches on their instruments makes up for any dynamics perceived lost.