In the world of virtuoso guitarists, Michele Ramo and Mundell Lowe are probably near the top of the pile. Yet in this album of duets on jazz classics, there is no flag waving or technical solo battles. The two musicians play in practically seamless agreement, trading melody lines and solos, knowing when to blend and when to stay out of the way. Lowe uses a plectrum on his Mapson hollow body while Ramo picks his unique guitar, an 8-string "Hei-D Mostro" made by Rich DiCarlo. The 7th and 8th strings are fretless and at times give the impression that a bass has joined the pair. It’s a very unique sound and Ramo uses it effortlessly in both solos and accompaniment.
The album begins with the title track, the Duke Ellington standard "I Didn’t Know About You." Ramo starts out with an interpretation of the verse, then Lowe leads in with the melody. He then plays a beautifully shaded solo, just the right amount of movement for the ballad tempo. Ramo then solos on the bridge, primarily using his bass strings, changing the timbre of the piece. The two then exchange phrases, building on each other’s statements. Ramo switches to his high strings at this point to create a livelier feel.
The tempo picks up a bit on Ellington’s "Satin Doll," where the accompanying guitarist does straight strumming with some lively solos on top. Again, Ramo does what could be mistaken as a very good bass solo, fully showcasing the advantages of fretless strings. The last track on the album "Sicily" features Ramo’s wife, the soprano Heidi Hepler, as she sings a gentle poem about Ramo’s land of birth over a background of languishing music reminiscent of waves on a seashore. At the end, the tempo abruptly speeds up to a quiet, Caribbean feel with Hepler using technical vocals that give the effect of "jungle sounds" while Hepler continues her sultry overtones. The lyrics are printed in the liner notes as well for a better idea of the song's inspiration.
This album is a good example of what happens when two master musicians get together for a tune or two. It’s very easy listening and although the feel is laid back and relaxed, it does not lack in energy. All in all, a well done and fresh interpretation of some old classics.