Somehow the term ‘less is more’ does not even begin to describe the manner in which this music by the tenor saxophonist Jeff Rupert and pianist Richard Drexler shines in all its radiant apparel, creating an unmatched nimbleness of sound. This is no stripped-down duet performance, but a full and wholesome recreation of the magical dialogue between a vocalist and pianist in the modern equivalent of instrumental Schumann Lied. The ebullient arpeggios and brilliantly gilded glissandi played by Rupert mimic perfectly the coloratura and melisma of a singer, only in this instance the saxophone; and in all its hushed spookiness it recalls the ghosts of Lester Young and Stan Getz as the gifted of Rupert shines forth. A radical departure from the romantic era of that kind of song might be experienced in the pianism of Drexler, whose impulse to adorn simple melodies makes him an equal partner in this glorious musical exposition.
No matter how you listen to this interplay it’s unlikely that you will be anything but convinced of the unforgettable nature of this encounter for it is one that is sure to bring great fame to this music all over again. It’s not difficult to see why. Imagination is, first and foremost, a collection of melodically exquisite songs, beautifully crafted, with a combination of ingenious writing and inspired improvisation on the part of both saxophonist and pianist. The vitality and brilliance of each invention shines forth in the strongest and most appealing orchestral colours. The dynamic range and balance between the instruments is achieved by each artist never seeming to tread on the other’s turf. It’s almost as if soloing is done in a series of shy dance moves as saxophone moves into the spotlight while piano is in the shadows; then switching roles as if by magic so that the other instrumentalist is suddenly spotlighted.
The inspiration of course also comes from the memorable repertoire that seems to have be musical manna, fallen from the sky. The quiet and luscious warmth of Rupert’s playing is particularly exquisite in the flowing tempo of Snowfall as the saxophonist sends up phrase after phrase of delicate ritenutos which gently nudge Drexler into a rarefied realm of his own. The quality of each artist’s playing is extraordinary, with both saxophone and piano falling into characterful soloing seemingly at the drop of a hat. And everything is played as if in the muted rustle of springtime; no raunchy trills or ponderous left-handed bass lines; just silken glissandi and flawless and finely dovetailed playing from Rupert and Drexler as melodic and harmonic changes take place with the right kind of rhythmic attack thrown into the mix. Three outstanding examples of this invisible passing of the torch take place on Tom Jobim’s A Felicidade, Jeff Rupert’s Shakespearean ‘sonnet’, My Mistress’ Eyes and on the Mal Waldron classic Soul Eyes.
Rhythm, indeed, is strongly marked throughout, emphasizing the unforgettable individuality of both Rupert’s and Drexler’s thematic gestures that are made in highly distinctive colours, the pure subtlety of which can only be experienced with breathless excitement on this classic that has been beautifully recorded live.
Tracks: Without a Song; I can’t Help It; Snowfall; Strange Meadowlark; Imagination; A Felicidade; My Mistress’ Eyes; Soul Eyes.
Personnel: Jeff Rupert: tenor saxophone; Richard Drexler: piano.
Label – Rupe Media
Release date – January 2017
Running time – 57:59
Website – http://www.markbass.it/artist-detail/richard-drexler/
Buy Jeff Rupert and Richard Drexler’s music on: amazon