The Art of Duo shows off and presents many sides of John Daversa and Tal Cohen as players, composers, arrangers and musical partners. The project also goes well beyond the traditional expectations of a jazz duo. With the sheer excitement of unfiltered experimentation, John and Tal flawlessly incorporate electric instrumentation and vocal performances alongside the more traditional piano/trumpet format.
Their music is a journey of sound. No labels, beyond it being an inclusive adventure for the audience and listeners as well. “The people responding to the record are not just heavy jazz folks. The music connects to all kinds of people because it’s not pretentious and instead humble art, encouraging everyone to take a risk or two, to feel life as it can be.”
The above tells me what the press pack wants me to hear but how does it all sound through the headphones? Well, as it happens, really rather good. The opening number, ‘Artful Sparring’, lets the listener know that this is not a straight-ahead jazz album but something that takes musical forms and plays with them. The “sparring” aspect of the tune is palpable with Tal Cohen leading from the piano and John Daversa bringing in the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) to add texture to this diverse sounding opener. ‘But Beautiful’ changes the mood completely. This tune has a film score b single shot quality to it. John Daversa sounds provide a haunting, atmospheric trumpet sound that drew me in, while Tal Cohen added depth to the sound palette with deft piano playing: the tune’s title is most apt!
‘On A Clear Day’ is built around repeating phrases from both musicians and works very well. The tonal variations are subtle but add interest to what might be described as a simple sounding tune that hides its complexity in plain sight. ‘Little Black Spider’ introduces John Daversa the vocalist and he certainly has no problem putting across this tune, which changes stylistically towards the latter part of the number to something a touch punchier before settling back down to where the tune started. ‘The Fool and The Emperor’ is full of energetic, angular playing from John Daversa with Tal throwing in a mixture of strong percussive piano lines and neat short runs: a wonderful three-minute burst of vivacity.
The tempo eases up on ‘Art of Sanity’ as the sound of piano and trumpet weave in and out of each other’s space with ease and fluidity. The phrasing and timing on this number is, in my opinion, wonderful. ‘Junk Wagon Cameo’, for me, is the track that doesn’t quite work as well as the other numbers that make up this album. I have no problem with the piano lines and the way they are played, for me it is the use of the EVI that detracts from the tune. There is a distortion to the sound, particularly in the lower register, that I felt was out of place – though having said that, when the EVI moved into the upper register the sound nicely complemented the playing of Tal Cohen.
‘Radiant Heart’ is, quite simply, a beautifully composed and played ballad. Everything thing here is about the power of the understated. The lyrical piano lines ebb and flow and the sparse trumpet of John Daversa provides a whisper of overtones that delicately add to the colour and depth of the tune – as do the additional lyrics sung in a style reminiscent of Chet Baker. The Art Of The Duo Volume 1 finishes with the longest tune on the album ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’. The playing here shows just how in tune each of the musicians is with the other, making it very difficult to identify the composed from the improvised – it matters not either way, the result is stunning.
Whether this album can be classified as a jazz record is completely unimportant to both musicians. “It’s not about that at all. It’s about the moment right now, and the opportunity within this moment. It’s about being expressive, and to create a greater presence filled with improvised dialogue and spontaneity. Making music that inspires and encourages people to trust their own excitement and passion for what they want to bring to their life.” It really feels like two musical worlds meeting, interacting, sparring — open to each other’s direction, and throwing musical punches only to react to the reaction, and thereby inspire and celebrate the possibilities of making music together.Press release pack
I very much enjoyed this album from two musicians I was not aware of until the music files dropped into my inbox. Their playing, their musical sparing, blending, and interaction clearly match the words from the quoted paragraph above and will inspire me to listen out for an Art of Duo Volume 2 – as well as any other material these two wonderful musicians have recorded.
John Daversa and Tal Cohen’s The Art of Duo Volume 1 will be available as a limited edition gatefold vinyl LP, and on all major streaming services.
Musicians: John Daversa – trumpet, EVI, vocals; Tal Cohen – piano.
Tracklist: 1. Artful Sparring. 2. But Beautiful. 3. On A Clear Day. 4. Little Black Spider. 5. The Fool and The Emperor. 6. The Art of Sanity. 7. Junk Wagon Cameo. 8. Radiant Heart. 9. In Your Own Sweet Way.