Joe Porter and Joel Goodfellow, “Detours – Music for Percussion and Piano” = ENNIO MORRICONE: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Suite; HOWARD SHORE: Concerning Hobbits from The Fellowship of the Ring; PAUL DESMOND: Take Five; SEAN BEESON: Promotheus Rapture, Seven Legends – Joe Porter, percussion/ Joel Goodfellow, piano – Big Round Records BR8938, 44:50 (Distr. by Naxos) [5/12/15] **:

This is a very difficult to describe and – for me – hard to get into album. According to publicity material, “ ‘Detours’ is the debut Big Round Records release from percussionist Joe Porter and pianist Joel Goodfellow and showcases the jazz duo’s capacity for collaboration and improvisation, with animated and dynamic (I am not so sure about this) versions of well-known film and literary compositions”.

Joe Porter, the 2014 recipient of a Gold Medal for Creativity and Originality from the Global Music Awards, has performed around the world. Joel Goodfellow is a piano instructor at the Univ. of Lethbridge Music Conservatory in Alberta, Canada, where he is also an in-demand accompanist.

The selections here are pretty much just what is billed. These are arrangements of two film score selections and a well-known jazz iconic work. Porter’s percussion is mostly a little bit of everything but lots of mallet work and Joel Goodfellow is a capable and stylish accompanist. Both players seem quite capable. My confusion or issue with this release is the program.

First, if there is a theme or concept it is very fuzzy to me. The Ennio Morricone is so often played and so familiar it hardly needs another redux; particularly where what we get is the “main theme” and one other excerpt from the score; “The Ecstasy of Gold.” I felt that this odd pairing of excerpts suffers a bit from the mere fact that it is a piano and a percussionist – piano solo, maybe?

The Howard Shore Fellowship of the Ring excerpt is another oddity. It begs the question ‘why that cut (“Concerning Hobbits”)?’  I felt this particular arrangement was borderline insipid. This selection does not amply show off either performer’s talents with its pretty but simple noodlings and not much for Porter to do except almost improv behind the piano line.

Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” barely needs an introduction and could well be the most famous jazz piece written in pentameter. Both players have fun with this ‘war horse’ and Porter’s set playing is admirable. Honestly, I enjoyed this the most of anything on this album.

The disc closes with Promotheus’ Rapture, Seven Legends by Sean Beeson. This piece is notated on this disc as “…for snare drum and orchestra (live)”  It is a five-movement work along the lines of the implied Greek mythology. There is no orchestra (let alone ‘live’). It is being played by the pianist, Joel Goodfellow, and the score is rather uninspired pseudo-film score stuff. (We couldn’t even say on the label that it was originally an orchestral score? It is the least well-known work on this disc.) Even the solo snare drum (I infer..) is given some riffs and rudiments that would be found as standard fare in the snare drum parts to almost any percussion section pseudo-film score. I am trying to envision this being for ‘snare drum and orchestra’ and not succeeding.

I enjoyed the playing of these two talented fellows but really wish this disc had a more carefully conceived program or marketing concept. It is an odd combination to be sure. I thought the film scores were like a fish out of water and the Sean Beeson piece just did not satisfy. Maybe Porter and Goodfellow can bring in a bass player and/or a sax player and do a straight up jazz combo album. This disc is absolutely not “classical” but it is not at all true jazz, either.

—Daniel Coombs