With only piano and drums, Larry and Paul break through to a breathtaking new place in music, a space where classical and improv and jazz become indistinguishable. Both volumes offer staggeringly lifelike recordings, so much so Fred Kaplan picked "The Powers of Two" as one of his "Ten Best of the Year".
1. Awakening -Listen to Sample
2. Mood Swing
3. Aftershock -Listen to Full Song
4. Space Dreams
5. Interlock East
6. Dance Of The Equinox
8. And He Never Said A Mumblin' Word -Listen to Sample
The piano-drums duet is still enough of a rare bird to draw our attention. The Powers of Two (Mapleshade) brings together pianist Larry Willis and percussionist Paul Murphy for an encounter marked by a lyrical yet explorative edge, replete with drama and mystery. On eight spontaneously composed pieces, the duo employs subtlety and carefully calibrated tonal shadings to make their strongest points. Willis, one of the most dependable mainstream stylists of the past four decades-recent high profile gigs include stints with Roy Hargrove and the Fort Apache Band-displays a surprising affinity for less structured improvisation.
Murphy's CV reveals his comfort with free jazz; he's worked with William Parker, Charles Gayle and Kidd Jordan, among others. Exhibiting admirable restraint, Murphy extracts shaded hues from his cymbals, shying away from a full force drum attack. Even when things heat up during "Interlock East" and "Hi-Jack," Murphy keeps himself advantageously in check.
These two are out to make affecting music together. By listening so intently to each other, they draw us near as well. -Steve Futterman
Over the years, Larry Willis has inspired a variety of comparisons -- sometimes McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, or Mulgrew Miller (on his straight-ahead post-bop); sometimes Cecil Taylor (on the avant-garde free jazz of his youth); and sometimes Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea (on his fusion recordings of the '70s). The veteran pianist isn't a huge name in the jazz world, but those who have closely followed Willis' career know that he is a flexible, broad-minded player who can handle a variety of musical situations. Recorded in August 2002, The Powers of Two finds a 61-year-old Willis performing a series of intimate duets with drummer Paul Murphy. The two of them enjoy a consistently strong rapport on this CD, which favors an inside/outside approach that is somewhere between Tyner's post-bop and Taylor's free jazz. The Powers of Two isn't as left-of-center as a typical Taylor album; this release is mildly avant-garde, whereas Taylor's boldly uncompromising work is radically avant-garde. And while Taylor's playing can be confrontational and in-your-face, The Powers of Two is more reflective than anything. But no one will mistake The Powers of Two for an album of Tin Pan Alley standards; Willis' encounter with Murphy is more inside than outside, but the outside element is definitely there. For all its abstraction and spontaneity, The Powers of Two never comes across as aimless or mindlessly chaotic; Willis' solos have a sense of sense of purpose and sound like they were meant to happen. The Powers of Two isn't the most essential album that Willis has recorded for Mapleshade; nonetheless, it is a solid and engaging demonstration of the pianist's ability to handle both the inside and the outside. -Alex Henderson