Personnel: Frank Morgan (alto saxophone); John Hicks (piano).
Audio Mixer: Jon Rosenberg.
Liner Note Author: Dave Helland.
Recording information: New Hope, PA (11/2005); The Jazz Bakery, Los Angeles, CA (11/2005); New Hope, PA (2006); The Jazz Bakery, Los Angeles, CA (2006).
Photographers: Richard Conde; Gene Martin.
Both John Hicks and Frank Morgan passed away shortly after making the recordings gathered here: pianist Hicks in May 2006 and alto saxophonist Morgan in December 2007. They had both spent the preceding decades living very different lives: Morgan, as is well known within the jazz community, was a heroin addict to whom incarceration was no stranger. He disappeared from the scene for an interminably long 30 years before finding his way back from his problems and into the music world in 1985. Hicks, meanwhile, was prolific throughout his multi-decade career, recording many albums as a leader and working alongside many of the genre's greats as a sideman. This set of seven tracks does not consist entirely of duets: Morgan appears on only four of them and Hicks plays solo piano on the others (there are no other musicians involved). Those solo tracks are full-bodied and cover a range of moods. The opening track, Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare," is sentimental and cosmopolitan, while the closer, Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower," is given a bluesy, melancholy reading. Hicks is a spare player, not a show-off, but his elegance shines through in every note and chord he chooses. When Morgan enters the picture, on four tracks recorded at L.A.'s Jazz Bakery in November 2005, they instantly seek and find a common place, enjoying a respectful if mostly easygoing conversation. "'Round Midnight," the iconic Monk tune, is taken at a leisurely pace, the pair both understanding that pockets of air give that much more context and power to the moments when the two instruments do come together. And Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" retains all of the song's exotic mystique, even in this minimalist setting. Frankly, though, this album is mostly Hicks' show: Morgan's playing is never less than impressive, but more often than not, he chooses to lay back and let the pianist have the run of the place. Whether Morgan saw his role at the gig as second banana or Hicks just had the more dominant stage presence, Morgan's reticence to make this an equal partnership shows as he holds himself back from engaging fully as a duet partner. Twogether is a pretty, relaxed set of music, but one wonders what might have been if both parties had been willing and able to go all out. ~ Jeff Tamarkin
JazzTimes (p.54) - "The duo's brilliance shines in their bopping uptempo romps. Hicks and Morgan play off each other so well in Dizzy's 'A Night in Tunisia' that they transcend the sparseness of the instrumentation."
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