…you are left having heard two master musicians in a set that is over too quickly, and provides an hour plus of scintillating music.

Mack Avenue MAC1155LP

Christian McBride (acoustic bass, piano); Edgar Meyer (acoustic bass, piano)

Two acoustic bass duos are a rare breed, and as a listener the concern is that the music becomes a duel rather than a meaningful duet encounter. With this double LP, yes four sides, of duets with McBride and Meyer there is no need for such concerns, as the music and listening to each other takes centre stage.

The two musicians come with their own distinctive sound and pedigree. Meyer is a five times Grammy winner with a cv that boasts a musical diversity that incorporates bluegrass, classical and folk music. McBride’s stature as a jazz bassist is irrefutable with many fine albums to be found in his discography, to which this album can be added.

As listed in the credits above, both musicians take a seat at the piano, but the bass is the place, and it is the roles that the two musicians adopt for each tune is what makes the music special. And what makes the bass such a fantastic instrument comes right at you with the opening ‘Green Slime’ by Meyer with a grooving bass line from the outset and the melody stated with the bow, before the bassist’s swap roles.

McBride contributes, naturally enough, ‘Bebop of Course’ with a dazzling fast them played arco and pizzicato before roles once again split into soloist and accompanist. The music swings mightily with the ideas flying back and forth between McBride and Meyer with bows being discarded and picked up again at rate of knots.

Miles Davis’s ‘Solar’ is given a fine rendition from the duo both playing arco in the intro before the theme is played by both plucking strings. The speed in which the two can play and handle bow and finger techniques so seamlessly soon becomes irrelevant as the music takes on a life of its own and, despite the album’s title, melodies abound.

It is almost inconceivable not to be drawn in by McBride’s ‘Philly Slop’ and ‘Tennessee Blues’ while Meyer’s ‘FRB 2BD’ makes a nod to both Ray Brown and Sonny Rollins, with Brown writing his tune ‘FSR’ on the changes to Rollins’s piece ‘Doxy’.

Breaking up the set but not the mood, are the duets that feature piano. ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ is beautifully accompanied by Meyer on piano leaving McBride’s arco playing to take the melody, and Christian returns the favour on his composition ‘Lullaby for a Ladybug’ with Meyer delivering a fine reading of this delightful melody.

Who is playing on which stereo channel is not specified at any point (my ears suggest McBride on the right and Meyer on the left), and the guessing game becomes redundant as the duo sweep you away with the music. The two musicians had not previously played together but seemed to have a great deal of fun making this album, and that sense of fun and adventure translates through the microgrooves to their audience.

So, to return to my earlier comment about four sides of bass duets, you are left having heard two master musicians in a set that is over too quickly, and provides an hour plus of scintillating music.