Dutch reeds player Ab Baars and viola player Ig Henneman needs no introduction. Baars and Henneman, partners also in real life, are master composers, improvisers and bandleaders, active in the vibrant Dutch scene since the seventies, always searching for new ways to expand and refine their art. «Canzoni di Primavera» (Songs of Spring in Italian) is the fourth duo album of Baars and Henneman (including one with American pianist Dave Burrell), and continues their work on «Autumn Songs» (Wig, 2013). Baars and Henneman chose spring as their muse and the ten canzoni-songs, recorded on December 2017, draw their inspiration from different poems that capture the elusive feelings of the spring season.
Baars and Henneman interplay is much more than intimate or even telepathic. This chamber-like interplay radiates the thoughtful, rich and profound layers of communication between these articulate soloists. You can find in their conversational duets sparks of irony, wickedness and playfulness, vulnerability and passion, poetic ideas and obviously, the wisdom of experienced improvisers with attentive, elephantine ears.
Take «The Trees», for example, inspired by Philip Larkin’s poem. This piece transforms Larkin observations about the seasonal changes into a quiet sonic meditation where the sounds of Baars’ tenor sax blends and dances gently with Henneman’s viola. Or «Hügels Hang», inspired by Franz Schubert «Im Fürhling» (In Spring in German), his adaption of of a poem by Ernst Schulze. Baars and Henneman offer here a delicate, poetic conversation where both extend and expand each other’s ideas with an great sensitivity and tenderness. And neither of them is afraid of a tense and dissonant confrontation as on «A Light exists in Spring», inspired by a poem of Emily Dickinson by the same name, but their second piece that was inspired by Dickinson’s poem, «That magical frontier», after the poem «The saddest noise», is a touching, romantic dance of two mature lovers. The last piece, «Zijdezwart», inspired by Tomas Tranströmer’s «April en Stilte» (April and Silence in Swedish), is another delicate, almost transparent piece, with Baars playing the Japanese flute shakuhachi. It is a beautiful meditation about the passing of time.
After listening again and again to this great album you know that April does not have to be the cruellest month. It can be one of the most beautiful and inspiring months.
Ab Baars (ts, cl, shakuhachi); Ig Henneman (viola, v)