This seems to be a time for duets, and there have been a number of good ones issuing over the last year, all based in excellent readings of The Great American Songbook, but this one, Nearness by Tine Bruhn & Johnny O'Neal, is one that's baffling in its tone and timbre, a very cool saunter through a subtle conflation of a number of modes and periods at times difficult to parse but oh so pleasing, a landscape between abstraction, intimacy, wistful stream of sonic consciousness, and refined eros. At times, Bruhn reminds of Judy Collins, then Rosemary Clooney—both of them noted for remarkable melodiousness—then Peggy Lee and some of the chanteuses who veered closer to the bone while beguilingly restrained. What nailed me right off the bat, though, was the 7:13 version of But Beautiful, the second track and an exercise in spare discretion laden with spheres of background meaning.
Bruhn's accompanied by Johnny O'Neal, who was favored by giants (Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, Dexter Gordon, and so on—hell, if you saw the fabulous Ray movie, and who hasn't?, that was O'Neal playing Art Tatum and doing so at the suggestion of the inimitable Oscar Peterson), and who plays with a sharp definition that, often like Bruhn's wont, hovers between swing, classical, Romantic, and straight ahead strains. Listen to his work especially during the middle eight of My Foolish Heart, where he adopts some of the chameleonic inflections Bruhn demonstrates throughout the disc. Stacy Dillard joins in with a delicious period saxophone on four cuts, making the environment triadic on the occasions, adding tremendous color, then Bruhn glides into an extended The Nearness of You, and her sirenic intro is hypnotizing: accessible and bewitching simultaneously.
Bruhn possesses a classic fashion model's good looks, kind of a cross between Twiggy and Mia Farrow but with the enigmatic Marlena Deitrich thrown in just to confound everyone, and that smoky Deitrich element starts creeping out in If I Should Lose You—not a lot, not very much at all, but just enough to, as she does with everything, shade things into a discreetly disarming unexpected avenue. It's confounding, really, that anyone can be this mellifluous and yet so enticing, constantly alluring, keeping the listener soporifically wondering what will come next. I think, dear reader, you'll go back to Nearness one more than once, wondering exactly what it is you can't quite grasp in fullness, never to solve the puzzle…and that's the secret of Ms. Bruhn's soothingly wily art.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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