It takes guts – in this day and age – to record a duo for electric guitar and acoustic piano. Even if the performers are Mark Wingfield and Gary Husband, both renowned for adroitness, prestigious partnerships plus the usual curricular stuff. While this reviewer is not conversant with Wingfield’s method, Husband’s drum and keyboard mastery have been experienced time and again, with particular regard to the memorable The Things I See, a pianistic reinterpretation of Allan Holdsworth’s compositions. Thus the curiosity was there, although the VU meters of my skepticism are perennially on red when it comes to analogous types of joint release.
Well, Tor & Vale is different. These adjectives came to mind as I was probing the tracks: “honest”, “heartfelt” and “inspired”. Wingfield represents the singing component, his slightly overdriven tone heard throughout the set, occasionally escorted/enhanced by lingering chordal reverberations. Five pieces are the fruit of the guitarist’s creative power, the remaining three were improvised. Speaking of which, I was amused by Husband’s illustration of his approach: “I actually have the infuriating habit of listening to initial instruction or some kind of plan, only to then completely disregard it and let instinct and intuition take over”. If this is the result, let’s hope he ignores the guidelines forever.
This means that the music can’t really be classified, and that’s fine. It’s at once elegiac, atonal, carefully organized, wavering between varying emotional states. One is attracted by diverse characterizations and nuances, the bulk of them apparently suggested by contemporary classical influences rather than anything related to jazz and fusion commonplace. What’s particularly alluring for yours truly is the possibility to (finally!) enjoy some good, self-descriptive interplay minus the silent oppression deriving from the necessity of chronicling. Intelligible reciprocity and seriousness of intent speak for themselves, and it’s definitely more than enough to spend a nice couple of hours without thinking, just letting the sounds grow inside and around. As it always should be.