ART OF THE DUO: NO SAFETY NET, NO MATTRESS
“Playing duos or duets in any genre is one of the most challenging formats that musical performers will find themselves in. It is both intimate and exposed. Unlike playing with larger groups, every note, rhythm and nuance must be played (or sung) with accuracy, conviction and strength. On the other hand, potentially it allows for a good deal of freedom and space where each player may have to fulfil many roles …..!’
Ed Schuller emphasizes that playing in a duo is one of the most demanding things to undertake – particularly when you go on stage intending to improvise. Himself an exceptional bassist, it’s not a problem, nor for his equally gifted partner Uli Lenz, for in the course of their career they have run through steeling fire in manifold ways; check out the Tutu catalogue!
Truly collegial, they have split the number of compositions equally between them; five each to make a total of ten. Whilst Ed Schuller’s titles such as Vortex or Bleep This are more in a post-Coleman genre, the compositions Morning Star or Black Snow penned by Uli Lenz are more in the melodic language of a pianist. But this is not just about a list of titles: somehow you get an insight into the inner coherence of this album, not accessible at first glance – in the course of its 77 minutes playing time; it’s the intimate dialogue between these two ‘soul brothers’, who are simply in the mood to communicate, to keep in touch without academic clutter, communication that seems to seek and find a common denominator. It’s about the impact of no less than two decades, a harvest of 20 years of artistic work together.
In terms of music it’s almost cosmic, a trip together – if you like – from Berlin to New York through Brooklyn and back again. Lenz describes Schuller’s role in this duo with the words, ”Ed has a feeling for the essential, never sounds loquacious. He’s run the gamut. His bass playing often reminds me of a big band. He puts his whole big orchestral thought into ONE note! And Mr. Schuller is also Mr. Rhythm, so you can do without a drummer… We are really quite similar, you know? We laugh about the same things. We also agree that when performing, risk is everything – no safety net, no mattress.”
There’s a feeling of self-assurance in this performance – sovereignty and suspense cleverly interlocked. Commitment and freedom are not set up against each other; instead both protagonists play out the contradiction of these - to counterpoise and reconcile them. That legendary jazz club Bradley’s in northern Manhattan counted as a temple of duo performance, especially the piano-bass combination. With this “art-of-the-duo” album, Lenz and Schuller have brought this tradition back to life and added another valuable chapter to its history.