On her latest release, Tandem, Seattle-based pianist Dawn Clement explores the on-the-edge vulnerability of the duo, in intimate conversations with some of her closest musical allies over the past 20 years. She is joined by legendary trombonist Julian Priester, saxophonist Mark Taylor, drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson, bassist Michael Glynn, and transcendent vocalist Johnaye Kendrick.
With Priester, the mood is pensive, playful, free. On "Improvisation #3," Priester and Clement stretch boundaries, explore pure soundscapes in an edgy solitude. "That's what we do, Priester and I," says Clement.
Brad Shepik's composition, "Sugar Cliff," is covered brilliantly by Clement and alto saxophonist, Mark Taylor. Clement blends perfect vocal phrasing and stunning articulation on piano with Taylor's freely melodic playing. Clement clearly sees piano and voice as one instrument here, and the result is one of uncommon emotional sincerity and beauty.
"I Think of You" features vocal artist Johnaye Kendrick, who doubles on harmonium. Intertwining melodies and harmonies resonate between the two voices and the winding muscular playing of Clement. Often overshadowed by the brilliance of her piano playing, Clement's vocal prowess reveals perfect intonation and an honesty that is joyful and hopeful.
The idea of piano and drums in duet may seem unusual, but then again, what is not unusual and wonderful about drummer Matt Wilson? On their complete deconstruction of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," Clement personifies Monk's carefree playfulness in some sort of perfect cadence of intuition that somehow finds its way through, leaving along the way a trove of special moments.
In selecting a vocal-based duet with bassist Michael Glynn of the standard "My Ideal," Clement makes a statement of delicacy and emotional vulnerability, grounded in the intimate phrasings of Glynn. It sums up the spirit of Tandem neatly. As Clement states in words and spirit, "When you trust each other, anything can happen."