Saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter first played together as a duo on their 1990 standards album Something In Common (Muse). What these two distinguished players had in common then was a diehard appreciation for the musical alchemy behind well-crafted songbook tunes. What they have in common now is six albums and nearly 30 years of collaboration on this voluptuous material. This year’s Remember Love (High Note) marks the next installment in their noteworthy oeuvre.
To the extent that modern jazz eschews the comely melody and its related harmonic underpinnings, on this album Person and Carter embrace them. Their tempos are measured and their arrangements spacious, so there’s no missing the intention behind their musical choices: to transmute familiar melodies into the most golden tones possible. For the listener this means that on Duke Ellington’s “Day Dream” the minor intervals sound deeper; on Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight” the walking bass seems jauntier; on Luiz Bonfá’s “Gentle Rain” the bossa feels more kinetic. Purity, not profusion.
No tunes on the recording are purer than the two solo tracks. So faithful to the melody is Person on the Vincent Youman’s tune “Without A Song” that barely a note deviates; what stands out is Person’s moving affinity for gospel and R&B. Carter’s take on “You Are My Sunshine” is different—from the head of this simple folk tune he launches into a cavalcade of improvised riffs. Two contrasting approaches, but one takeaway. “You hear different things when it’s just the melody,” Person told Steve Futterman, the New Yorker writer who penned the liner notes for Remember Love. “A single melody can be so powerful.”
(Reprinted from the December 2018 issue of Downbeat magazine.)