This album is a tribute to Ota Benga (1884-1916), a member of the Batwa tribe of pygmies, who killed himself at 32 after having been ripped off his native land as a kid to be exposed at the St. Louis World’s Fair and – once unable to return to Africa since his family had been erased – being used as a popular attraction, even bigger than the animals, in the Bronx Zoo where initially he had a job as cage-cleaner. Pianist Haney and trombonist Priester, separated by 20 years of age but sharing an acute sensibility as players, recorded thirteen pieces whose pronounced intimacy and exquisite harmonic shapes throw back to an era when listening to a jazz duo was a moment to be savoured in full tranquillity, without external interference to break the magic. Haney and Priester had to front a monstrous heat wave in the day of this session, the experience described by Haney in the liners as “somewhat as a blur”. Yet the different reactions to the circumstances, also including a potentially devastating technical inconvenience, seem to have summoned forth a stronger spiritual bond between the pair. The music unfolds in gentle quietness, the artists exchanging melodic seeds and sketches that the lingering silence helps to highlight in a beautiful example of polite reciprocal listening. When dissonant geometries happen to materialize during the creative instant, their potential contrast is decreased by the soft-spoken communion between the instruments, making us appreciate their glowing light like sunrise finally breaking through after a sleepless night.


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