John Cipolla & Doc Livingston,
(self-produced, 2005)

What happens when a New York clarinetist meets a Kentucky pianist? Yes, I'm sure it sounds like an eye-rolling type of city mouse/country mouse joke; however, what happens in this instance is Misbehavin', a wonderful collaboration and an amazing instrumental album. The duo met at Western Kentucky University's music program -- David "Doc" Livingston is a retired professor and John Cipolla is a current associate professor. These two show there is definitely some great jazz sounds coming out of Bowling Green, Ky.

You just know from the start -- the stealthy clambering piano intro followed by that smooth mellow clarinet in "Moon Ray" -- that you're in for a treat. Cipolla and Livingston are a powerhouse musical tag team, taking turns in the spotlight. Take "Deep Purple" as an example: one moment, Cipolla's clarinet is all over the place, but then gradually steps back to let Livingston run up and down the keys. Their balance is maintained throughout, be it in the toe-tapping quality of "Blackstick" or the elegance of "On a Clear Day." There are also some impressive renditions of easily recognized standards by jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington's and Irving Mills' "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good." And, of course, the album title references the final track, Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'."

Misbehavin' is cool in its subtlety. Even though both performers make it sound effortless, as if they always have enough wind in their lungs and unlimited energy at their fingertips, they don't show off. Every performance is subdued and unruffled, avoiding any type of frantic or hectic pace, yet retaining an inherent vivacity. I could go on and on about the intricate details of each performer, maybe even look up some obscure musical descriptions that would perfectly apply, but there's really no need. Just trust this reviewer: it's a thoroughly enjoyable album with solid, consistent performances by a duo that works very well together.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

11 August 2007

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