The trumpet/drum duo would seem a natural in jazz, an easy callback to New Orleans brass bands and earlier fife and drum music. But even amongst the avant gardists (who love a drum and sax duet), it's a relative rarity. Don Cherry made albums with Ed Blackwell and Latif Khan. Wadada Leo Smith has released duos with Ed Blackwell, Adam Rudolph and Gunter Baby Somer. The Bill Dixon / Tony Oxley sessions are notable, as is (of course) Max+Dizzy, recorded in 1989 by two of the music's wisest elders. And the Dave Douglas / Han Bennink disc Serpentine is enjoyable start to finish. There are others, of course, but being so easy to count demonstrates how unusual they are.
One of the strongest statements of brass and skins to be put onto record is Lester Bowie's and Phillip Wilson's 1978 Duet (another side of the duo was included on Bowie's 1983 album All the Magic!). Two months before that New York City session, Wilson laid down another trumpet meeting in Paris. Curiously, this one would be released under Wilson's name alone, even though trumpeter Olu Dara (who also plays serpent on one cut) is a prominent part of the proceedings.
The Wilson / Dara duo, Esoteric, is a curious affair — a study in primitivism, or in discovery, or (as Hendrix would have it) getting "experienced." As with many of the nascent Art Ensemble records (on some of which Wilson played) there is something tribal that may put off those who like flashy technique over nonverbal expression. But as a document of the time, especially by two artists with scant discographies, its reissue by Corbett vs Dempsey is more than welcome.
The album was originally released by the Swiss label Hat Hut Records in 1979. Shortly after Wilson's 1992 death, another album appeared under his name, only the third in his career. Since that time, Dara has become considerably better known, thanks to a pair of excellent records featuring him as an electric country-blues singer and songwriter. It's odd the Corbett vs Dempsey kept his name off the cover (the label recently changed an album originally credited to Tristan Honsinger to the more appropriate band name for its reissue) but either way it's great to have the album back in circulation.
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