For those well-versed in more modern styles of jazz (particularly recordings released on the ECM label), bassist Gary Peacock and pianist Marilyn Crispell probably aren't unfamiliar names. Both have put out a wealth of material as band leaders and, especially in the case of Peacock, have participated in multiple projects under the leadership of other world-renowned players. After having their paths cross on two previous ECM records with Paul Motian (namely 1997's Nothing Ever Was, Anyway and 2001's Amaryllis), these two seasoned jazz players have finally decided to make an album as a duo with 2013's Azure.
Although this album is an interesting document of Peacock and Crispell's musical collaboration, it isn't a particularly memorable listen (to my ears, at least). The free, highly improvised compositions are clearly the product of skilled musicians - both players frequently echo ideas back and forth, making for an intriguing close listen - but they feel too esoteric to really leave a lasting impression. Without a strong melodic foundation or rhythmic backdrop, music this improvisational can easily fall into the background and lose my attention. Especially considering the album's hour-long playing time, it can become seriously challenging to tell the tunes apart without paying very close attention. Although I'm sure that Azure's mellow sense of introversion will have an atmospheric effect on some listeners, I find my mind wandering far too often to give this more than a passive recommendation.
Azure is an album that I really wanted to click with me, but it feels too laid back and loose to ever catch fire. Although it serves as a cool document of two fantastic musicians playing together, Azure is not one of the most impressive jazz releases I've heard in 2013. This is only recommended to dedicated fans of free jazz or either of the musicians involved.
4. Bass Solo
5. Waltz After David M
7. The Lea
9. Piano Solo