PLAY(Drimala) - Michael Jefry Stevens & Michael Rabinowitz
by Jay Collins 9 September 2004
For an instrument usually reserved for the buttoned-up environs of the \"Symphony Center\", the bassoon, in fact, fits jazz and improvised music settings quite well. While other reedists have dabbled, few have been bold enough to make this unwieldy instrument their main axe. Michael Rabinowitz, though, is happy to rise to the challenge, making Drimala Records\' duet series an ideal setting for the bassoonist to soar, especially in the company of a worthy associate like pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. Throughout this intimate and thoughtful session, the duo covers terrain that evokes grand classicism, jazz, and attuned improv, rich on reflection and spirit, with room for playfulness that at times evokes a celebratory feeling between old friends. As for this one-day session, the pieces were improvised on the spot, though it is quite easy to assume that the majority of these experiences took some shape of written form beforehand. Interestingly enough, the titles given to the pieces are quite apt, painting pictures of organic, sparse interactions, touched by the beauty of nature. The album\'s opener, \"Sibling Rivalry\", focuses on the individuals for a terse, spirited discussion where Stevens and Rabinowitz finish each other\'s sentences.
Similarly, the active \"Play\" presents the duo at their most percussive, while \"Meadow\" and the cooperative \"Sea Song\" are as close as the partners are to locking horns, with Rabinowitz pushing out some steam on the former.
The duo also sparkles during the reflective pieces like \"Memory Lane\", perhaps a harkening back to years of playing together and the paths they\'ve traveled. Such sincerity also carries over to the quiet after the storm, heard in the stark lines and extended bassoon dialogue of \"Aftermath\", or the floating \"The Graceful Bear\". Further, \"Reflections\" is a focused solo showcase for Rabinowitz that fosters both slowly evolving and lively thoughts. While the presence of Rabinowitz on record is a treat, the same can be said for Stevens. Throughout the record, the pianist demonstrates a command of his instrument, not only in a technical sense, but also for the warmth and feeling he coaxes from this stringed, wooden box. His classical notions are explored in particular depth on the floating waves of \"Cloud Drift\" and the captivating \"Whispering Wind\", the latter of which bursts with a rich splendor that drives right to the core of Stevens\' sense of emotion. As a final word, the pair drifts away on \"Rivulets\", commencing with dense, melancholic chord structures that serve as the vessel for Rabinowitz\'s equally passionate and solemn.
Nate Dorward - Cadence Magazine - April 2005- Play
The disc\'s bouncy title teils one story, the inward-Iooking track titles another: \"Memory Lane,\" \"Cloud Drift,\" \"Dew Drops,\" \"Whispering Wind….”As you’d expect from a bassoon/piano duo, this sounds gorgeous. Stevens\' phrases ripple up and down the keyboard, or drift aroune Bleyishly like snowdrifts or windblown leaves, Rabinowitz mostly keeps to the plangent side of his instrument-Iong, lonely notes, throbbing with vibrato-though he\'s occasionally peppier, especially on his solo piece \"Reflections:\' Play is qui tessential autumn music: lean, shadowed beauty. You could call it latterday Third Stream (Drimala\'s Philip Egert notes echoes of Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky, and even Vivaldi) but there\'s plenty here for the straight Jazz fan: check out, for instance, the somber \"Aftermath,\" virtually a Mal Waldron tribute (who else could lie behind Stevens\' trancelike quartal chords?). Sometime the album\'s a Iittle too languorous for its own goold. \"Whispering Wind\" is a bit saccharine-but that\'s small quibble. It\'s a good disc to put on the stereo if you\'re in the mood for something beautiful and a Iittle fragile.