The duo format in jazz can be very challenging. Although it does offer great freedom in which to create, it also demands new and greater responsibilities. A bigger group enables more timbres, textures, and creative interplay. Short of that, an effective duo must create engaging arrangements and choose pieces that will make the best use of their limited timbres and textures. They must also select repertoire that will best support their musical concepts. The Pagán/Walter DUO has met these challenges head-on, as evidenced by these wonderful compositions, arrangements and recordings.

The repertoire presented here is a balanced blend of original tunes and arrangements, representing varies styles, meters, and grooves. The playing features swinging, creative solos, sensitive comping, and a fine sense of ensemble amd listening throughout. The recording quality itself is quite impressive. Kevin Harbison (Recording Engineer, University of Colorado at Boulder) and Greg Heimbecker (Mixing and Mastering, University of Northern Colorado) generated a clean, warm, genuine product.

I have performed with Mike Pagán for many years and it has been a joy to witness his development as a jazz pianist and composer/arranger. It was also a great pleasure to “meet” Doug Walter’s playing and writing skills on this recording.

Enough talk – take a listen and enjoy this wonderful duo!

David Schmalenberger

Pagán-Walter Duo
Pagán-Walter Duo
Dear Old Stockholm
Trad. – Arr. M. Pagán

The opening tune, Dear Old Stockholm, was made popular in jazz circles by Miles Davis and Stan Getz. The formal design is unique (i.e. not a standard AABA, 32-bar song form) and can be difficult to negotiate when improvising. The challenge is to not make the solos sound compartmentalized, but rather to create phrases which connect the various sections of the tune. Both Pagán and Walter negotiate the form effortlessly and offer engaging, flowing solos. The transition back to the “head” is seamless and logical; an example of the duo’s attention to detail and of their performing abilities. After the return of the melody, Pagán and Walter trade swinging solos (check out Pagán’s “ole Man River” quote) before a last statement of the vamp and a final pensive chord.

Ypres
Doug Walter

Doug Walter’s somber ballad Ypres is named after a city in Belgium where one of the bloodiest battles of World War I was fought. Again, the improvisers must be “on their toes” in order to maintain the 17-bar form. The interplay between the duo members is skillfull (the movement to a more active swing feel, for example, is organic and flowing, not contrived or forced) and Walter’s solo exhibits an outstanding sense motivic development.

Duo Etude
M. Pagán

Pagán composed Duo Etude in the Fall of 2001 and dedicated it to Doug Walter. The contrapuntal writing at the beginning of this tune is reminiscent of the Modern Jazz Quartet and their Third Stream concept. This material dissolves into a very clever, elastic middle section featuring interesting harmonic and rhythmic ideas which refer to the initial themes.

Windows
Chick Corea – Arr. M. Pagán
not published

The tune Windows by Chick Corea is a wonderful vehicle for the duo. Pagán’s playing is marked by three of his generative influences: Oscar Peterson’s blues, classical stylistic references, and the rhythmic and harmonic language of Chick Corea. Walter’s solo features very interesting phrasing (often moving “across” the barlines) and a strong, swinging, rhythmic feeling. After their solo spots, the duo members trade ideas with great energy and dialogue (note Pagán’s “Invitation” quote). This tune again showcases the duo’s mastery of form, pacing, transitions, and overall structure.

Adagio
J.S. Bach – Arr. M. Pagán

Pagán’s arrangement of Adagio is the middle movement from J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Toccata in G, BWV 916. Dynamics and articulations were of course worked out by the performers, as no such instructions were provided by Bach. The vibraphone and piano timbres work well for this piece, and both players exhibit sensitive, controlled playing.

Hopeless Romantic
M. Pagán

Pagán’s Hopeless Romantic is perfectly suited for the duo. Characterized by a descending bass line, this tune’s coda is nearly as long as long as the tune itself. Throughout this selection, the duo’s playing is marked by wonderful listening and a great sense of ensemble. The final major chord sounds “hopeful” rather than hopeless.

Pavane
G. Fauré – Arr. M. Pagán

Gabriel Fauré’s lovely piece Pavane has often been interpreted by jazz musicians. In this arrangement by Pagán, the duo approaches the tune as a gentle waltz. The arrangement concludes with both classical references and Oscar Peterson-inspired blues licks.

Theme & Variations
P. Pace – Arr. M. Pagán

The multi-section work Theme & Variations was written by the American pianist/composer/teacher Pat Pace. The subject, which blends elements of classical music and jazz, was based on a theme of Mr. Pace’s teacher Vincent Persichetti, who borrowed the motive from Brahms. The eclectic mix of compositional material in this piece seems to reflect the duo’s concept in general: the bringing together of several idioms and influences in a successful merging of styles. The chorale which concludes the piece was composed by Pagán in tribute to Mr. Pace, and is a beautiful way to end this recording.