London based guitarist Charles Alexander is no stranger to The Jazz Mann. “When Lights Are Low” and “A Handful Of Stars” his highly enjoyable mainstream albums recorded with tenor saxophonist Jeffrey Benson are reviewed elsewhere on this site.
“Comparing Notes” finds Alexander in the company of fellow guitarist Andy Robinson for a series of sparkling duets. Alexander and Robinson have worked in this format on and off for over fifteen years but this debut recording was only released in 2005.
The material on “Comparing Notes” is mainly comprised of standards but they also have a special affinity for the music of Pat Metheny and include three of his compositions-“Farmer’s Trust”, “River Quay” and “Travels”. Metheny writes beautiful tunes and the pieces included here capture him at his most melodic. They’re a joy to listen to and Alexander and Robinson more than do them justice.
Their playing on the standards is relaxed and conversational with some fine interplay between the two musicians and with solo duties pretty much equally divided. The syrupy, well rounded tones of Alexander’s solid bodied 1968 Gibson ES 335 have that archetypal “jazz guitar” sound and contrast well with Robinson’s distinctive seven stringed semi acoustic Manson, custom made in 1996.
The standards are all great tunes too from the likes of Rodgers and Hart, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Waller and others. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Django Reinhardt are also featured. It’s all high quality stuff but it’s the way Alexander and Robinson caress the melodies and really get inside the tunes that make these performances so special. Despite the familiarity of much of the material everything sounds bright and fresh. The wonderful recorded sound that 33 Records always seem to get is also a great help.
There is nothing earth shattering about “Comparing Notes”. Its unpretentious aim is to take a collection of memorable tunes and to play them as well as possible, bringing out the melodies and imbuing the whole project with a relaxed joie de vivre. This makes it a perfect “late night” record but there is an élan and sparkle to the playing that allows for more serious listening.
It’s been a long time coming but Alexander and Robinson are to be congratulated on this very enjoyable album. (by Ian Mann)
Personnel: Charles Alexander (guitar) Andy Robinson (guitar)
Live at the Le QuecumBar, London, 2013
Tracklist: 01. My Funny Valentine (Rodgers/Hart) 5.24 02. I Can't Give You Anything But Love (McHugh/Fields) 4.21 03. Two For The Road (Mancini/Brieusse) 4.51 04. Farmer's Trust (Metheny) 4.59 05. Dawgmatism (Grisman) 5.15 06. Honeysuckle Rose (Waller/Razaf) 3.55 07. A Felicidade (Jobim/DeMoraes) 4.11 08. Georgia On My Mind (Carmichael/Gorell) 5.45 09. My Foolish Heart (Young/Washington) 3.37 10. Menina Flor (Bonfa/Toledo) 4.04 11. When I Fall In Love (Young/Heyman) 3.52 12. Nuages (Reinhardt) 4.19 13. Walk Don't Run (Smith) 3.58 14. River Quay (Metheny) 4.04 15. Travels (Metheny/Mays) 6.33