THOMAS FONNESBAEK AND JUSTIN KAUFLIN
Few in their right mind will agree with this choice. That said, I’m out of my mind for this album.
I have not been able to put this album down since its Fall 2017 release. It is STUNNINGLY good, bearing new fruit and fresh perspective with each listen. For me, this was the most listenable, intelligent and conversant release (that I came across) this year. Simply put, it is total freedom on proverbial wax.
The album takes its name from the perceptual phenomenon of the same name, where senses become mixed. Sounds become colors, forms and shapes to many synesthetes. Fonnesbaek and Kauflin share the condition and it serves as a fitting description for these evocative soundscapes, paintings in sound and feeling.
An album featuring only double bass and piano might sound anaemic, aching for more instrumentation. Not so with “Synesthesia.” Fonnesbaek’s bass is percussive, extensible, melodic, syncopated, never veering from the exceptional. Kauflin’s piano is as gleeful as Guaraldi, muscular as Mehldau, emotive as Evans, plaintive as Peterson. Together, they wind, wrap and dance around each other effortlessly, trading leads and responses. It’s like hearing a sparkling dialogue between two truly effervescent minds. It all results in a complete sound throughout, never wanting for more.
For all of that sparkle and skill, this collection of songs is no exercise in mere virtuosity. This is a remarkably emotional album, living in the poignant spaces between as much as the gambol of their interplay. Neither artist ever loses sight of the FEEL of the songs here. Striking.
Though it was recorded in just two days in Sweden (TWO DAYS), this is a jazz treasure with timeless relevance. It should become canon for the genre.