Mike Eckroth/Scott Colley at Mezzrow 3/12/18 (by Jeff McGregor)

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PERSONNEL: Mike Eckroth (piano), Scott Colley (bass),

SET LIST: The Touch of Your Lips (Noble), So Tender (Jarrett), You and the Night and the Music (Schwartz), Sabia (Jobim), Moon River (Mancini), Willow Weep For Me (Ronell)

HIGHLIGHTS: The duo’s interpretation of “Sabia” shone with understated lyricism from Eckroth and subtle counterpoint from Colley.

The piano/bass duo is an important format for Mike Eckroth. In his early years, he held a nightly duo gig with bassist and mentor Morrie Louden. More recently, he released a duo record with bassist Ron McClure. Eckroth cites Charlie Haden’s duo records with Keith Jarrett and Kenny Barron as important reference points as well classic pairings like Evans/Gomez and Ellington/Blanton. He explains, “You leave a lot out in any duo format, but you also gain leeway that you wouldn’t have in a bigger band..

Eckroth was joined by Scott Colley for their first performance since playing together as members of John Scofield’s quartet. Eckroth opened “The Touch of Your Lips” with an unaccompanied rubato introduction followed by a warm and swinging reading of the melody. Colley entered for the melody with a two-feel that continued as Eckroth began his solo with relaxed lines in his right hand. Colley’s two-feel eventually settled into a hard-swinging walking line. Eckroth dug in with increasingly dense textures and counterpoint in his left hand. Colley’s solo followed with searching, fluid lines eventually arriving at a final statement of the melody.

Eckroth opened Keith Jarrett’s “So Tender” with a rich and lyrical introduction that gracefully transitioned to the melody. Against a straight, medium-tempo pulse, Eckroth and Colley’s solos drew from a wide palette of rhythms and subdivisions, creating dense and captivating lines. The duo continued with an up-tempo version of “You and the Night and the Music.” Eckroth’s introduction established a deep groove with an unaccompanied chorus through the form that also seemed to be in the Jarrett tradition. After a hard-swinging solo from Eckroth, Colley entered with long eighth-note lines that picked up where Eckroth left off. He then shifted to a series of quarter-note triplets contrasting and complementing what had come before. Colley concluded with a series of double-stops before Eckroth delivered a loose recapitulation of the melody.

After a beautiful reading of “Moon River”, the duo closed with a blues-filled “Willow Weep for Me” in 6/4. Eckroth let loose with a soulful introduction that stretched through the piano before he and Colley dug into the form. As they had done all night, Eckroth and Colley balanced their own creativity with warmth and support for each other.

— by Jeff McGregor