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Judith Insell - viola
Joe Fonda - bass

Featuring Judith Insell on viola and Joe Fonda on contrabass. I recall Ms. Insell from her days with the Soldier String Quartet when the performed with John Cale. She has also worked with Lee Konitz, Steve Coleman and Greg Osby. Contrabassist extraordinaire, Joe Fonda, remains one of the greatest of all local bassists and has worked with a plethora of downtown's best musicians: Anthony Braxton, Fonda/Steven Group, Conference Call and th Nu Band. The duo opens with Coltrane's "India," a fave of many Trane fans, myself included. This piece is quite powerful as Joe bass provides some thunder while Judith wails on top. What I love about this is that the duo is able to provide those heavy spirits with just two string players. Bill Evans' poignant "Very Early" is done with taste and care: I dig the way Judith caresses each note, bending them like a tear rolling down someone's face. Joe takes one of his mighty fine bass solos here, an inspired one, righteous and filled with passion. Judith's piece, "Bill," is a haunting, melancholy song in which Judith plays the stunning melody while Joe just punctuates with a handful of well-placed notes that resonate just right. "In the White" features a touching double bowed melody as the theme. While Judith plays each note with intense concentration, Joe burns profusely underneath. Then the roles are switched while Joe bows with immense focus while Judith plucks quickly on top. Back and forth, back and forth, like a heated discussion that erupts and takes you along with it, never knowing where it will end but you know you are being uplifted nonetheless. Richie Beirach's "Elm" sounds like two ghosts hovering around one another, both with slightly bent drones. Judith plays that touching melody, making every note count, while Joe also extends the same spirit, again with just a few well-placed notes, plucked and then bowed. On "Baghdad Waltz," Joe explodes with one of those astonishing bass solos that must be heard to be believed. I haven't heard a string duo disc in a long while that is as good as this one. The last one that I can recall was Fred Hopkins and Deirdre Murray from more than a decade ago. Good company for this great contemporary duo. This fabulous duo will be playing here at DMG in a couple of months, so please stay tuned.

Dark Wood Explorations

by Judith Insell
with Joe Fonda

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