Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence that this collection is titled Duets, when other musicians have titled albums with the same title. Duets is what this CD features, and if we subscribe to the definition of duet as a musical composition for two performers in which they have equal importance to the piece, this CD truly falls in that category.
The CD contains two very different sessions. In the first, we cover songs from the great American Songbook, Swiss pianist Oliver Friedli is on keyboard and I sing. It was a first of sorts for me, since I have recorded my voice only once. I was exposed to singing at a very early age, and joined a boys choir at the age of six. We practised every Saturday afternoon, and sang in church on Sundays. When I was ten, I left the choir and didn’t sing again until I was in my late forties. Once I did, I was struck by how wonderful it is to tell a story by voice, and how immediately the audience reacts to it. While I always felt that playing music was a form of telling a story, with singing it became even more so. And Oliver, an accomplished pianist and composer, married to the singer Houry Apartian, was the perfect partner to engage in such conversation.
The second session came out ofa wish to record with Chicago bassist Jake Vinsel, with whom I have worked for over ten years. We previously played and recorded a short CD together with pianist Dan Nimmer (Trio Airway Records 4671), and Jake also plays on my latest CD Bobolink. Here, I wrote a number of pieces for bass and saxophone. Some of them are very short, some are strictly composed, others are open improvisations. It occurred to me that they would make perfect interlude between the standards I recorded with Oliver.
Two explanations for the titles: Inanga is a zither-like stringed instrument from central Africa, where I heard it played in Burundi when I lived there in the 1970s. There the Inanga was typically used by a male singer to accompany himself. He would whisper more than sing, and it struck me to be the right way to tell an intimate story with music. Raga, which means color, hue, beauty, or melody, is an Indian musical form. It starts with the notes that make up the scale of the tune and which set the mood for the song. Once set, the players begin to explore the combination, arrangement, and use of the notes.
Here is a CD combining scripted stories and invented tales, dialog between voice and instrument, and between two instruments, a conversation started by one and finished by the other. In other words, duets.
released January 1, 2015
Sam Burckhardt, vocals, tenor and soprano saxophone
Oliver Friedli, piano
Recorded April 16, 2014, at Onedrop Studio, Basel, Switzerland, by Eric Gut
Sam Burckhardt, tenor saxophone
Jake Vinsel, bass
Recorded March 2, 2011, at Joy Ride Studio, Chicago, by Blaise Barton
Many thanks to Richard Wilson for advice and support, Beth Strever for the great design, and to Oliver and Jake for playing great music.
Produced by Sam Burckhardt © 2015
Airway Records AR 4767
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