On Duet from 2001, bassist Shinichi Kato and pianist Masahiko Sato put forth a misty and stimulating collection of duets. The pair establishes a relaxed rapport based on masterful foundations using 11 original songs for roomy jazz improvisation. While opening slowly in a melancholic mood, the music blooms gradually, drifting around in abstract colors through the first four tracks before settling into more solid ground through the rest of the album.

From the opening “Old Diary”, an elegiac classical-sounding introduction (with traces of Modern Jazz Quartet perhaps), and through the next several tracks, the piano and bass constantly interplay with simultaneous improvisation while adhering to the musical framework, the bass taking lead voice at times and piano at others. While the music can be sparse and airy with a relaxed sense of time, there is plenty of space, freeish solos, and moments where the duo lock tightly in time and harmony.

Following the quiet start, the album shifts gears on the fifth track “Bass Folk Song”, where the piano and bass suddenly strike out with a unison melody. From here the music flows with uptempo moods, ballads, and songs with a somewhat more standard jazz feel. The album finally culminates with the final track “A Song for Jack”, a quicker Latin-styled pulse where the pair play vividly with clear enjoyment.

Overall, Duet is a nice balance of absorbing and hazy music, swirling around the strings and keys of a well-versed bass and piano duet.

Duet by Shinichi Kato & Masahiko Sato

Released in 2001 on Nagel Heyer Records as CD-2017.

Japanese Names: Shinichi Kato 加藤真一 Masahiko Sato 佐藤允彦

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Jun 7, 2021