Rainer Böhm and Norbert Scholly, 'Juvenile,' Pirouet Records (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Jul 16, 2015 12:42 AM EDT
Norbert Scholly, Rainer Böhm Pianist Rainer Böhm (L) and guitarist Norbert Scholly (R) rewrite the rulebook for jazz duos on their debut for Germany's Pirouet label, as solos consistently melt into accompaniment and vice-a-versa. (Photo : Konstantin Kern)

You almost do not recognize Hoagy Carmichael's 1930 hit "Georgia On My Mind," the state song Ray Charles taught us to love in 1960. Acoustic guitarist Norbert Scholly goes it alone at first. But it's only when Rainer Böhm's piano cascades in like a waterfall at the midpoint does the tune manifest itself into anything remotely familiar.

Scholly, 51, and Böhm, 38, have known each other for 10 years and are into the fourth year as a duo. Scholly grew to fame with Benny Golson and Peter Erskine in the popular West German big-band WDR, expanding his fan base with a series of electronic performances, a violin/piano instrumental folk duo and even a tribute to metal band Slayer. Bohm got his masters from Queens College in New York where he played with Randy Brecker. He's since performed solo worldwide.

They both currently teach at the Hochschule für Musik Mainz.

On the duet debut of these two Teutonic masters, a transparent symbiosis is achieved--a form of mutualism that's the backbone of their unique chamber music of the swingingest order. Yet, it doesn't just swing; it breaths with intimacy and pulses with ideas. The eight originals and one aforementioned cover are elegantly spare but still convey worlds of meaning. The dynamic interplay is at such a high level that, oftentimes, a piano solo with guitar becomes--in the blink of an eye--a guitar solo with piano.

As Scholly says, "accompaniment slides spontaneously into soloing and back again. Since we have a very similar way of phrasing, our lines blend into the whole. Even when we are improvising or playing lines at the same time, we complete the motifs or phrases of each other."

And that's the key to their meanderings, indeed.  

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TagsREVIEW, Rainer Bohm, Norbert Scholly, 'Juvenile', Pirouet Records

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