by Susan Frances
Album Review: R&D from Jeff Rupert and Richard Drexler
Artist: Jeff Rupert and Richard Drexler
Label: Rupe Media
Saxophonist Jeff Rupert and pianist Richard Drexler come together for their second collaboration R&D, on the heels of their first offering together, Imagination in 2017. The music captured on their latest release was a portion of two nights of music performed by the duo at the Timucua Arts White House in Orlando, Florida in June of 2015. The standards featured on the recording demonstrate the pair’s instinct to communicate meaningful exchanges with one elaborating on the other’s thoughts, sometimes finishing the summary being posed to the audience. The melodic progressions bond seamlessly as the two hewn imaginative phrases, which they parlay into reclining soundscapes.
Lulling nocturnes and soothing bedtime-sounding passages emerge from the recording as Rupert and Drexler weave around one another. Their re-imagined treatment of “Edelweiss,” a theme song written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for the popular 1959 musical The Sound of Music, puts a delightful pep into the rhythmic twinkles of Drexler’s keys and the frilly tweets of Rupert’s saxophone, contrasting the movie version of the musical’s theme song, which modulated the notes to emote a sorrowful vibe. The bright and sparkling tone of the sax and piano ruminating along “Johnny Come Lately” is conductive to the likings of a modern day cafe society. The tranquilizing atmosphere exudes a warmth and allure familiar from the works of Cole Porter, resembling a similar liquidity smoothness on the palate.
The reflective mood expressed in multiple showtunes from Broadway musicals circa 1930’s can be heard in Rupert and Drexler’s arrangements. What separates the music of R&D from the Broadway-inspired jazz numbers of the 1930’s is the pair’s ability to live in the present, crafting melodies that use a modern jazz vernacular, composing melodic phrases and exchanges that are completely of their own making. This is pointedly shown by Drexler’s keys in the undertow of “Soul Eyes,” providing a plush cushion for Rupert’s improvisations that flitter and plume in a whimsical manner. Midway through, the two reverse positions and Drexler’s keys lift to the prominent role. Exercises such as these with one rising above the other displays the duo’s reverence and instinct for complimenting each other, in addition, to displaying their ingenuity to re-imagine standards and make them sound like original pieces of work.
Jeff Rupert – saxophone
Richard Drexler – piano