Picks and Pans Review: First Brass
updated 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
Duologue proves not a new point but one that feels new each time it is proved: that two instruments, neither of them piano or guitar, can create a complete musical world. In Duologue the combination is trumpet and bass, and it works because of the musicians involved. Trumpeter Allan Botschinsky, 47, is one of Europe's leading jazz musicians—admittedly an eye-glazing description (like calling someone a leading Hawaiian bagpipe player). But Botschinsky, who's worked with Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon and Quincy Jones, would be notable even if he lived here rather than in his native Denmark. He is an expressive, imaginatively melodic player with a particularly warm, supple sound. Botschinsky's countryman, Ørsted Pedersen, 41, is known worldwide as one of the two or three best bass virtuosos in jazz. In Duologue's liner notes, Botschinsky modestly says, "This unusual combination only works so well because Niels can play his bass like a guitar. He plays the bass line and the harmonies at the same time.... He's the only bass player I know who can do this sort of thing." They make all the material seem uniquely suited to their collaboration. It includes standards (My One and Only Love, St. Louis Blues, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair), a Danish folksong, a Jewish liturgical melody and several original tunes as rhythmically diverse as samba, waltz and bebop. Whether stating a sinuous melody in unison, entwining in nimble counterpoint or seamlessly moving between accompaniment and solo, harmony and melody, Botschinsky and NHOP, as fans call him, generate a remarkable breadth of color, texture and unforced feeling.
Botschinsky also plays on the novel First Brass, released by the same label (M.A. Music, which he co-founded with his sister Jette and Marion Kaempfert, daughter of Bert Kaempfert, who wrote Strangers in the Night). Four brass instruments are over-dubbed to sound like 12 to 16 horns. Working in a variety of jazz styles, including Latin and Dixieland, Botschinsky wrote and arranged all the tunes but one (by Brahms). Trumpeters like Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson and Quincy Jones have praised the record, but while it is clever and lively, it is too cute for its own good, and the ballads are borderline bathetic.