Red Toucan

Frank Gratkowski’s reed-based ductility is an identified attendance at this domicile, whereas Danish pianist Jacob Anderskov is a charming new entry in a personal album – by now thick as a phone book – of excellent musicians who, one way or another, had escaped my consideration to date. Ardent Grass results as a fusion of technical neatness and shared esteem, qualities that brighten up eight moderately probationary improvisations. There’s no chance of listening to embittered exchanges or out-of-context pitches in this disc: the articulation of each contributor’s language is just about perfect, sometimes almost to a fault. Counterpoints are seamed impeccably; lines are depicted with physical certitude and open ears, every time respecting a distribution of weights that improves the interplay’s economy. Doubling on alto sax and clarinets, the German shows how the illustration of well-dressed designs can constitute an acceptable alternative to the troublesomeness of sufferance; he seems to walk lightly across any situation, always managing to stay connected with the duet’s essential spirit. Anderskov is a tasteful counterpart devoid of affected solemnity, the owner of a crystalline pianism permeated by precise flexibility who knows exactly when less is more, and vice versa. Never for a second we felt victims of the bravado of futile virtuosity: in this case, frequent listens are not wearisome.

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