Multi-reedist Idit Shner made quite a splash with her debut recording, Tuesday's Blues (OA2, 2009). On that album, Shner led a straight- ahead quartet through some not so straight-ahead arrangements of traditional Jewish music. On Fissures she joins harpist Yumiko Endo Schlaffer in presenting 20th century compositions for saxophone and harp. The format is not so different from the classical violin sonata (pairing the violin with piano). That is, in theory. What actually evolves in these modern compositions are sound tomes, instrumental conversations between two culturally different instruments.
Shner plays all the saxophones save for the baritone. She capably handles the behemoth bass saxophone on two pieces, Rokus de Groot's "Cadenza" and Philippe Di Betta's "Fissures." Shner coaxes a muscular tone from the large horn, approaching the came capability Gerry Mulligan had with his baritone. Schlaffer's harp provides a lace foil to Shner's reedy rasp. Far from a simple harmonic instrument, the harp here is used for ornamentation and counterpoint, an oddly disconcerting counterpoint. This is intimate chamber music: introverted and considerate. In a market where it is hard to stand out, Shner and Schlaffer have precious little trouble lighting the area with their considerable talent.