Trumpeter John Daversa and pianist Tal Cohen each moved to Miami in 2013. With their respective insertions into that city’s scene came interactions in a variety of ensembles and the development of some serious chemistry over the years that followed. More recently—in the aftermath of COVID-19, when opportunities for bands were still scarce—Daversa and Cohen began to capitalize on that connection and embrace the art of the duo, leading to this studio document of their partnership.
A simpatico rapport is evident right from the start of the program. Cohen sets his associate’s “Artful Sparring” in motion with an asymmetrical breakdown in nine, Daversa’s EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) adds to the rush of excitement, the music settles into a slyer-and-slower gear, and thematic deconstruction and cycling ensue. Then there’s a shift in focus to standards, with emphasis on their positive pliability. “But Beautiful,” with muted trumpet out front, retains its balladic essence while using restlessness as a tool for reduction and expansion; and “On a Clear Day” is driven by Cohen’s percussive chording and adorned with Daversa’s open-horned melody play.
Save for the aforementioned numbers and a familiar yet fantastical take on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” originals remain the order of the day. Cohen makes his lone compositional entry with “The Art of Sanity,” a piece that draws heavily on a marriage of friendship and friction endemic to this pair’s work. And Daversa delivers two additional instrumentals and serves as the duo’s resident lyricist and vocalist on his other contributions—the soulful “Little Black Spider” and art song “Radiant Heart.” With this first offering in what promises to be a continuing collaboration, John Daversa and Tal Cohen are off to a wonderful start together.