Review by Brad Walseth
Pianist Kristjan Randalu and percussionist Bodek Janke have been performing music together for decades and the former schoolmates in Germany (Randalu is originally Estonian, Janke from Poland), now primarily relocated to NYC, have an uncanny ability to play off of one another. A duet concert that has no need of additional musicians, this live recording brings the individual and collaborative skills of both musicians to the forefront in a performance that is exciting and fulfilling. Randalu shows command of a wide range of piano craft, including jazz, folk, classical and modern improvisation, while Janke shows a constantly creative rhythmic bend and mastery over the percussion sections tonal colors.
Randalu's 13:00 "Confidance" starts things off and is one of the highlights of the recording. This impressive composition moves through several surprising mutations with enjoyable rhythmic and melodic contours. Showing more pure jazz chops, the duo tackle both "All the Things You Are" and "If I Were a Bell," while another Randalu original, "Hinken" takes them into African /world music territory, complete with native flute, assorted percussion and vocal calls. The relentlessly polyrhythmic piano heightens the tensions to an almost fever pitch with a lengthy section with the bass line in cut time while the melodic improvisations cascade in a free-form flow over the top of the percussive base.
Two other compositions are true highlights as well. First Randalu's arrangement of Dvorak's "Largo from the New World Symphony" is a savory and quite exemplary reworking of an orchestral favorite into a piano and percussion realm. Finally, ending the album most wonderfully is a haunting version of a traditional folk song "Igauhel Oma Pill." Other reviewers have indicated this is an Estonian folk song. This may well be the case, but growing up in a half-Scandinavian family, I remember this melody well from hearing it repeatedly at a young age on a musical box. In any case, what Grupa Jahnke Randalu do with this simple melody is a wonder to behold, as they stretch out for 12:20 improvising delightfully on this childlike theme. That the music flows so freely between European folk and classical music and jazz, African and world music sounds is a testament both to the sensitive and highly conscious nature of the players, as well as the universality of music.