Here’s some video of saxophonist Bill McHenry and guitarist Ben Monder improvising in duo format at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Massachusetts in February 2011. Monder is one of the most interesting jazz guitarists on the New York scene right now—I’m a big fan of his work with saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh—and McHenry is a saxophonist I’ve been listening to quite a bit recently. The two recorded a duo album, Bloom, for the Sunnyside label in 2000, though it wasn’t released until 2009. They also made three discs fronting a quartet featuring bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Paul Motian: a 2003 self-titled effort on Fresh Sound New Talent, and 2007’s Roses and 2011’s Ghosts of the Sun, recorded at the same sessions as Roses, on Sunnyside.

I haven’t heard Bloom, but the quartet discs are a mixed bag, to my ear, with quite a few really beautiful moments but a general lack of forward momentum, most of the responsibility for which I think lies with Motian, whose approach to the kit I’ve never much taken to. I’m much more pleased by McHenry’s upcoming album La Peur du Vide (due out October 30), which features an entirely new band—pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Andrew Cyrille. With that hard-swinging band behind him, he wields the horn in a more aggressive manner than many listeners may be used to hearing from him, and it’s a really refreshing experience. Check it out in three weeks.

Phil Freeman

Anyway, here’s Part 1 of the McHenry/Monder set:

And here’s Part 2:

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