The Art of Duo, John Daversa & Tal Cohen | The Vinyl Anachronist

the art of duo

Thanks John Daversa and Tal Cohen, for sending me on a wild goose chase with your new album The Art of Duo, Volume One.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to review any music. It took me a long time to break down all the Audio Group Denmark gear, box it all up and send it on to the next lucky person. Now I’m tackling an all-Audio Note UK system, and it took me a while to get all the pieces, rearrange my listening room to accommodate the corner-loading AN-J/D Hemp loudspeakers, and throw in that first piece of music–in this case, it was The Art of Duo.

Within a few seconds after cuing up the opener on The Art of Duo, an original Daversa composition called “Artful Sparring,” I knew I had a huge problem. The speakers sounded like they were rattling and buzzing and totally distorted and I thought great, now I’m going to have to troubleshoot an entirely new system. I checked all the connections, everything seemed okay, and now I’m going to have to call Audio Note and…

Wait a minute, I thought. The music from The Art of Duo had been playing this whole time, and now everything sounded utterly spectacular, with plenty of energy and presence coupled with a gorgeous tonality. Then I realized my mistake–“Artful Sparring” was a duo between a piano and a very crusty EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) that sounded like it needed the services of a technician, which is sort of the point. John Daversa is never content with just playing, because he has so many ideas. I also like EVIs, because they remind me of the ondes Martenot in they way they work.

Daversa is a Grammy-winning trumpet player and composer who has recently completed some truly ambitious recordings such as his American Dreamers album which tackled DACA, and Cuarantena, which focused on making music during the pandemic. The Art of Duo is more focused in its scope–it’s basically a series of duets with pianist Tal Cohen with Daversa countering with his trumpet, his vocals and that funky EVI.

This is a beautiful recording, perfectly suited to a debut performance from the Audio Note gear, with immediate and intimate performances that reach out and impact the listener in a very physical way. The Art of Duo is a spectacular showcase for these two performers, especially in the seamless way the improvisations blend with what’s on the page, and the inventive way they feed off each other’s inspiration.

Since this is Volume One, we can assume there will be more from these two. I’ll be waiting, and in the meantime I’m going to dive into some EVI music and figure out what the heck it’s doing.