Thursday, May 7, 2009

Michael Tracy and Harry Pickens: Conversations

Sea Breeze Jazz
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.7.09
Buy CD: Conversations

This is an unusual album.

It consists of saxophone and piano duets, with no rhythm section; Michael Tracy is the saxophonist, and Harry Pickens the pianist.

Additionally, both men are part of the Louisville Kentucky School of Music faculty; their primary job is in the field of education. They had early careers as performers — Pickens with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody — and then morphed into the education field as they got older.

Musicians often play and practice together, to work out compositions, arrangements and phrasing; they sometimes record such sessions in order to assess the results. Sometimes a horn player and pianist will play together just for their own enjoyment; vibraphonist Gary Burton once referred to such events as “like having a conversation with an old friend.”

This album falls into that category, but it's important to realize that such occasions usually aren't released for commercial listening. This CD is an exception.

Pickens wrote two tunes; the rest, by other composers, date from the late 1930s to the present day. Five of those are arranged by Tracy and/or Pickens. The results, though pleasant enough, can become tiresome because of the limited instrumentation. (I suggest these tracks be programmed in a “shuffle” mode, along with other recordings.)

I suspect sales will be limited, outside of relatives, friends and students.

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