"'Alone Together,' appropriately titled, joins the sounds of two instruments infrequently heard in jazz contexts. Without back-up, Diane Monroe and Tony Miceli take those possibilities a step further by forming a duo, thus even more unconventional, of instantaneous interplay between just those two instruments, comparable in exploration, but not similar, to the Gary Burton/Chick Corea innovations with their vibes/piano duo. An incremental process, the formation of the duo solidified in 2009, even though Monroe and Miceli, two Philadelphia-based veterans of their instruments, had worked together on various projects since 1980. On their first album together, one is struck by the fullness of the duo’s sound, despite their initial worries about sustaining or varying sonic production. Actually, the resonance of Miceli’s vibes contributes to harmonic continuity for fluidity of sound. Consummate professionals, Monroe and Miceli have worked out an ability to engage listeners through creative technical mastery...
'Theme from Star Trek' allows the duo to grab an audience’s attention with a recognizable theme, even though they both have performed in numerous other styles with the likes of Max Roach, Dave Grusin, Uri Caine, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano. That diversity of styles is evident on Alone Together, as they vary genres from country music to blues to spirituals to standards to the non-categorizable music of Thelonious Monk. With fulfilling and original arrangements, Monroe and Miceli have figured out how to inject their personalities into the music.
Monroe’s 'Fleetin’ Blues' not only features the wryness of her interpretation with end-of-phrase glissandos, blue notes and a vocalistic attack on notes she chooses to emphasize. It also includes a signature vamp for Miceli to play behind her. On Monk’s 'Eronel' they take turns with accompaniment, and Monroe comps on violin with piano-like jabs and Miceli solos with rippling ease. Both include on the album solo performances of three minutes, give or take a few seconds. Miceli chose 'Tennessee Waltz,' which he performs with slow, meditative affection and mellifluous grace. Monroe plays a tour de force version of 'Wade in the Water' that combines soulfulness and folk-music fiddling with self-accompaniment and dramatic effects borrowed from classical technique."
"Ms. Monroe, a onetime member of the Uptown String Quartet and The Sting Trio Of New York, has a trained style with just enough grit and adventure to make it interesting. Mr. Miceli brings to mind Gary Burton but plays mostly with just two mallets as opposed to four. What puts this CD over the top is the program which offers a wide reference of material, which along with an original from each duo member, makes for wonderful and engaging listening. A number of the tunes here are approached in a very original manner. There is nothing hohum about this recording and suggests a lot of thought went into it; time well spent for both the musicians and the listener."
"Monroe and Miceli are adept and resilient musicians of the highest caliber, so they are able to weave their combined sounds into many expressive variations that create tone poems and tell stories. For this album, they chose music of diverse genres -jazz standards, classical, folk/country, blues, Monk, and an arrangement (Monroe's 'Wade in the Water') that defies categorization. Because they are outstanding jazz players, the music always retains the mainstream jazz idiom as its ultimate reference point. This is a finely done and highly listenable album that carries the listener away by evoking images and mental associations in response to the feelings generated. Monroe and Miceli 'speak' well not only to each other but to the mind and heart of the listener.
'Vince Guaraldi' is Miceli's composition, a homage to the revered West Coast jazz pianist who wrote the score to the Peanuts TV series. Miceli's lovely tune when improvised sounds almost as if Linus and Lucy are having a conversation.
'Fleetin' Blues' is a Monroe original with the flavor of bluegrass violin playing. Throughout the album, Monroe shows remarkable versatility, incorporating romantic, modern, and postmodern violin approaches on top of swing, bebop, and country fiddler styles. She came out of the jazz violin tradition of Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli, but her grasp transcends genre.
The artistic highlight of the album is an exquisite interpretation of Villa-Lobos' 'Bachianas Brazileiras no.5' with its beautiful soprano solo transcribed for violin and arranged by Miceli. Not only does the duo understand the gorgeous harmonies and inflections of the great Villa-Lobos, but Monroe performs an extraordinary cadenza that would make Itzhak Pearlman take notice, and Miceli's vibes work is subtle and sophisticated. His unique approach to four-mallet playing works magic in this piece. This track completely dissolves the boundary between classical music and jazz. In itself, it is Grammy-worthy in several categories.
'Tennessee Waltz,' a popular song that in recent years has attracted jazz musicians such as Jim Ridl who ironically performed it on a Happyland baby piano, a miniature instrument like a celeste, on his album, Your Cheatin' Heart. Miceli eschews the irony and plays it in a reflective way, as a ballad.
'Eronel' utilizes Miceli's learned understanding of Monk. He is founder and leader Monkadelphia, a quintet which plays Monk exclusively, so he really knows Monk. Therefore, Monroe defers to Miceli's approach in her lively solo. They successfully integrate Monk's syncopation within a mainstream framework, no easy feat to accomplish.
In the haunting ballad, 'Alone Together' Monroe sets off an Astor Piazzolla tango rhythm against Miceli's rendering of the tune, where he echoes Milt Jackson's way of creating phrases around important notes of the melody and giving them a blues twist. The blend turns out to be quite felicitous, making something new out of a familiar tune, which is what jazz is all about."
- All About Jazz
Over the course of thirteen tracks, Monroe and Miceli cover an incredibly broad range of music. They tap into everything from spirituals to standards, cover country and classically-infused ground, plant their flag(s) in Spanish soil, deliver original works, and make their way through a pair of Thelonious Monk tunes...Through it all, it's their sonic bond, sixth sense connectivity, and musical taste that help to make a hodgepodge of music into a cohesive and captivating program.
...Individual expression and rapport both have their place on this album. Soloist and support roles are established and played out to their fullest in many places, demonstrated most clearly, perhaps, on the title track, where Monroe supports Miceli with gentle comping and an arco bass line, and Miceli follows suit by laying a harmonic foundation beneath Monroe. But this pair is anything but predictable in the way they approach this music. Note Monroe's brief cuica-turned-cajon imitation(s) behind Miceli during 'Spain,' her tempestuous solo take on 'Wade (In The Water),' a brilliant, eerie and groovy interpretation of 'Misterioso,' and a surprisingly vibrant, album-ending take on the 'Theme From Star Trek.' Monroe and Miceli needn't have worried about working alone together. This album shows that each is a perfect match for the other."
- All About Jazz.com
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