Lunaria Records will release Duality, by guitarists Tom Remon and Jim Mullen, Friday, 5 March, 2021 (see trailer at the end of this review). The album consists of eleven tracks, two of which are written by Tom Remon, across sixty-five minutes. So, the question is, can two guitarists hold the attention of the listener for a little over one hour?
Tom Remon is an aspiring young guitarist on the London jazz scene. Having only recently graduated from Middlesex University in 2019, his playing already conveys a maturity beyond his years. He is an alumnus of the Jazz Warriors development programme, and has already played with some of the era’s most esteemed jazz musicians…
Jim Mullen is considered a national treasure and inspiration to all musicians, not just guitarists. He is a veteran award-winning guitarist on the British jazz scene, with a career that spans over four decades! Jim has been a member of several pivotal bands, each making a seismic impact in shaping British Funk and Jazz music.Lunaria Records press release, 2021
The album opens with an interpretation of ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ – here just referred to as ‘East of the Sun’. There is a Bossa-Nova style to this track, which quickly reveals just how well these two guitarists complement each other. This is a good opening number, a repertoire standard, no less enjoyable in its familiarity. The great Jim Hall inspired the next track, ‘With a Song in my Heart’. I listened to Mr Hall’s version from his album These Rooms, featuring Tom Harrel, and I have to say that I prefer the version on Duality. There is a good tonal depth to the playing of the main melody and the interplay between the two musicians as the tune progresses is a joy to listen to. Joe Henderson’s ‘Step Lightly’ continues in a similar style to the previous track. There is a good “walking” supporting line under the melody that lifts the track, giving it a fuller sound.
‘Sarah’ is written by Tom Remon and it is he who takes the lead with the melody. This is a well-written tune set at a good tempo. There is fine use of light and shade in this number that both guitarists connect with; whoever Sarah is, she clearly means something to Tom. Wayne Shorter’s ‘Fall’ is a much more sombre affair but no less enjoyable for being so. I consider this a reflective piece with plenty of breathing space around the notes that allows me to absorb what I am hearing. The mood picks up with ‘Like Someone in Love’ before the album moves on to another Tom Remon original.
‘Jaffna’ is a village in the North of Sri Lanka and the song is an ode to the people who live there. The press release to Duality describes Jaffna as “a dark and reflective piece” and while there are elements of that description within the song, I felt that there were uplifting passages as well. The more I listen to this tune the more I recognize how well-written and performed it is and the more I get out of it.
‘Whisper Not’ moves the album on with elegance. This number flows effortlessly from beginning to end and it is easy to understand why it is a popular tune from the book of standards. The last of Tom Remon’s compositions is ‘GPJ’, a tribute to Grant Green, Peter Bernstein, and Jim Mullen – the melody apparently being written with Jim in mind. This is another strong tune from Remon and deservedly included on the album. Duality closes out with Dave Brubeck’s ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ and the classic ‘You the Night and the Music’. The tone on the former is rich with Remon playing the melody. The final track is a fitting end to this album with both guitarists showing why they make such a formidable team.
So, does this album hold the attention of the listener for little over an hour? That might depend on how big a fan of jazz guitar the listener is. I would suggest that Duality would be better for cutting two of the covers coming in at around fifty minutes, which would also give a better balance between the tunes of others and Tom Remon’s own work. There are no weak tunes on this album, and they are all played to the highest standard, but I should have liked to hear more of Tom’s compositions. There is no doubting the musicianship on display here but to fully appreciate this album you need to break it down, take your time, make use of the repeat button: perhaps this is an example of too much of a good thing.
Tracklist: 1. East of the Sun. 2. With a Song in my Heart. 3. Step Lightly. 4. Sarah. 5. Fall. 6. Like Someone in Love. 7. Jaffna. 8. Whisper Not. 9. GPJ. 10. In Your Own Sweet Way. 11. You and the Night and The Music.