Maurice Cahen, guitars
Steve Travis, piano
Longtime musical collaborators and friends guitarist and composer Maurice Cahen and pianist Steve Travis, have produced Departure, a disc full of compelling and colorful tunes composed primarily by Cahen.
The guitar/piano duo can be a problematic pairing, as both instruments often play similar roles rather than complimentary ones; the guitar and the piano are both melodic and harmonizing and accompanying instruments, so combining them can often result in an overly dense sound. But Cahen and Travis know each other’s playing inside and out and are masters of the all-too-rare art of musical subtraction. The duo’s lithe melodies wind their way over sophisticated, jazz-infused harmonies, which pass by the listener with grace and economy as the two musicians trade off their roles as melody player and accompanist.
It has been said that accompaniment is the best measure of musicianship; not only must an accompanist keep his or her own part in mind, but must also sensitively support the melody player through the give and take of heartfelt rubato sections. Both Cahen and Travis are superb accompanists, showing utter mastery in providing Cahen’s trademark evocative melodies with a gently swirling river of harmonic context. The lush harmonies are always clearly presented, but often through only the very gentlest of textures.
Given Cahen’s often surprisingly shifting harmonic progressions, less accompaniment is, indeed, often more. His compositional sense seems to be informed by two strong yet disparate traditions: Jazz and Romantic-era classical music. Non-diatonic melody notes and compositional features such as the whole-tone scale (first heard in the music of the Romantic era of the late 1800s) are used to beautiful effect by Cahen. But walking bass lines and a pervasive sense of swing, central to so much of Jazz, are also present on many of Cahen’s tunes, as well as on the release’s lone cover (“Blue in Green”, Bill Evans).
The disc is an aural document of a friendship formed in music, well-tended over many years as both men have broadened their craft and deepened their trust in their musical connection. With Departure, Maurice Cahen and Steve Travis have arrived.
Departure is available via CDBaby.