Jazz duo Tuck and Patti have astounded for 29 years with their spare, intimate, and beautiful covers of standards as well as rock artists such as The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Vocalist Patti Cathcart possesses a deep, rich instrument that can wrap itself around virtually any song, while guitarist Tuck Andress amazes with his unique technique, sounding as if more than one person is strumming simultaneously. While typically classified as “new age,” the married duo actually encompass jazz, folk, blues, and numerous other influences to create their sound. Their latest release, I Remember You, focuses on the standards, the songs that influenced their musical development most. Originally on the Windham Hill label, Tuck and Patti released critically acclaimed albums such as Love Warriors and Dream; Tuck also produced solo guitar works such as 1990's Reckless Precision (his rendition of “Over the Rainbow/If I Only Had A Brain” makes for essential listening). For their latest album, released on their own label, T&P Records, they stick with the Great American Songbook, selecting songs that hold great meaning to them professionally and personally.
As usual, Patti's voice effortlessly glides over each track. Her phrasing on “Embraceable You” demands listening very closely to the lyrics, while her scatting on “A Foggy Day” perfectly complements Tuck's intricate solos. Interestingly they speed up the tempo of “The Very Thought of You,” giving it a fun, upbeat tenor. Like Cassandra Wilson, Patti's deep voice can evoke many emotions, such as longing and desire on “When I Fall in Love.”
As is customary with Tuck and Pattie albums, Tuck plays solo guitar, this time on “It Might As Well Be Spring.” Tuck impressively works in the familiar melody while surrounding it with lush chords. Once again, it is hard to believe that only one artist is evoking so many sounds from one instrument.
Their chemistry pervades the album on cuts such as “Deed I Do,” with Patti's scatting interweaving with Tuck's intricate finger work. During his solo on “A Foggy Day,” Patti can be heard saying “yes!” in the background, obviously inspired by his virtuosity. This is the essence of teamwork, a duo who after all these years still appreciate each other's unique talents.
While the “remembering” concept is interesting, one misses the rock covers they inserted into previous albums. For example, 1989's Love Warriors mixes classics such as “On A Clear Day” with gorgeous jazz arrangements of The Beatles' “Honey Pie,” Jimi Hendrix's “Castles Made of Sand/Little Wing,” and Stevie Wonder's “If It's Magic.” This approach nicely showcases their diversity and artistic ability to span several music genres. That type of diversity would have given more variety to I Remember You — aren't there any modern classics that also influenced their work?
Another issue I have with this album is a picky one, but one that greatly affected my listening experience. On tracks like “I Remember You” and “In A Sentimental Mood,” Tuck's guitar possesses an odd sound quality. Each note and chord seems to fade in quickly, then fade out. At first I thought it was my speaker system, but I have listened to the CD through different speaker systems (I even listened to the MP3s on iTunes) and found the same phenomenon. It's as if someone is constantly turning the volume up and down quickly. On those two cuts, this effect clashes with Patti's vocal, make it fluctuate frequently as well.
Admittedly I'm not a sound technician, so I tried to research this effect. On Tuck & Patti's official site, I found a description of their recording techniques. According to Tuck's essay, I Remember You marks the first time they mixed their CD at home, and that he “accidentally found a set of delay relationships that improved the effect of the Dolby A that had always been the secret ingredient in the guitar sound.” He adds that while mixing, the duo “were still working our way through the learning and debugging curves, including starting from scratch with all new console, routing and reverbs, so we spent much longer than ever before mixing.” Did these new techniques produce this fluctuating sound effect? Perhaps readers who are familiar with recording methods could comment and shed light on this subject.