FEW FORMS of music are as intimate as the improvisational duet. It isn't merely a matter of soloist and accompanist, because improvisation demands equal communication between both players. As a result, the best duets eddy and flow, like great conversation, and are as delightful to hear.
PATRICK MORAZ & BILL BRUFORD -- "Flags" (Editions EG EGLP 630). Moraz and Bruford, who will be at the Bayou on Tuesday, are a familiar pairing, but their new electronics make a difference this time around. Bruford's electronic drums allow him to play even more melodically than before, while Moraz's use of the Kurtzweil digital synthesizer literally puts an orchestra at his fingertips. Even when the music is less than enthralling, the sound itself amazes.
RON CARTER & JIM HALL -- "Telephone" (Concord Jazz CJ-270). These two have worked together before -- this is their third duo recording -- so there's an easy familiarity to the playing here. But what really makes this combination click is the contrast between the two sounds and styles as Carter's stolid melodicism and resonant tone sketch lines deft enough to underscore Hall's splashes of harmonic color. A delight.
CHICK COREA & STEVE KUJALA -- "Voyage" (ECM 1282). Given the musicians involved, this ought to be considered a jazz duet, but the improvisation here has more of a classical cast to it. Part of that has to do with the duo's avoidance of blues- based material, but mostly it's a matter of balance, as pianist Corea and flautist Kujala perform with the sort of interplay and informed dynamics expected of chamber ensembles.
LARRY CORYELL & BRIAN KEANE -- "Just Like Being Born" (Flying Fish FF337). If two-way performances can be described as musical conversation, then chops-conscious guitar duets like these are the equivalent of listening to shoptalk. Both Coryell and Keane are exceptional players and some of the solos they unleash on this all-acoustic album are dazzling. But overall, it's hard to imagine this music interesting anyone but other guitarists.
HERBIE HANCOCK & FRODAY MUSA SUSO -- "Village Life" (Columbia FC 39870). The music here is an astounding cross-cultural blend that finds Hancock's digital synthesizer meshing perfectly with Suso's kora, a 21-stringed Gambian lute. The interplay is truly inspired as the two adjust their musical thinking to bridge not only the technological but also the national differences between them, creating in the process what can only be described as world music.