It is easy to label both pianist Tom McDermott and clarinetist Evan Christopher as traditional jazz musicians, but both transcend that simple label.McDermott, a pianist rooted in ragtime and Jelly Roll Morton, has also become renown for his interpretations of the Brazilian choro idiom and the music of New Orleans legend James Booker. Christopher has become one of the most highly regarded clarinet players today and is a 2011 Jazz Journalists Association nominee, who has also exhibited abilities to excel beyond traditional jazz as evident by his European gypsy jazz recordings and his intriguing interpretations of modern jazz including a marvelous medley of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman and Ramblin’, and John Coltrane’s After The Rain.
The new album by the pair, Almost Native (Threadhead Records) takes it title from the fact that someone asked Tom if he was born in New Orleans, and after he answers he moved there in 1984, they respond, “”Oh, well you’re almost a native then.” This latest recording is a duo recording of originals by the pair, eight by McDermott, and two by Christopher that displays the considerable empathy between them which enhances the lyricism at root of both their styles.
The music moves from the wistfulness of the opening Tango Ambiguo (Ambiguous Tango), the indigo charm of Christopher’s slow Waltz For All Souls which evokes George Lewis’ bluesy playing, the raggy playfulness of Le Manège Rouge (The Red Merry-Go-Round), to the the atmospheric Spooky Blues (For Booker)/Quite Enough Blues, with McDermott’s spare, restrained playing effectively setting the mood. There is a bit of cheeky humor for “The Don’t-Mess-With-My Two-Step, a piano solo, followed by a delightful and playful, Chorando Em Paris (Playing Choro In Paris). The last original recording here is a march, March of the Pony Girls, which exhibits all the warmth and humor the two exhibit throughout this.
A bonus track, the lively Irresistível (Irresistible), derives from McDermott’s New Orleans Duets and concludes a thoroughly charming recording. It is available from www.louisianamusicfactory.com, cdbaby, itunes and other sources. Tom McDermott’s website is www.mcdermottmusic.com and Evan Christopher's website is www.clarinetroad.net.
|Evan Christopher and Tom McDermott doing an in-store performance|
at the Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur Street in New Orleans.