Jazz duets expose a musician's weaknesses and strengths even more than solo performances. Not only do players have to wield high-quality chops for their big moments, they also have to support a compatriot for the equivalent of an artistic high-wire act. Toss in the improvisational factor and things get even more dicey. Both saxophonist Joe Lovano and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba justify their well-deserved reputations for skill and daring on this album.
They run through a fistful of bop standards like "Hot House" and "Flying Colors," taking chances and challenging the listener with an album that, while worthy, is not particularly comfortable to listen to. This might be the sort of thing you'd hear in Greenwich Village lofts in the '60s -- a back-alley, academic approach to melody, harmony and rhythm.