..... Train To Tourmaline.....



Audio Samples


Wide-ranging, yet accessible jazz duo of free improvisations with piano, saxophones, flutes, clarinet, and percussion.

(ballad to broody to gospel) 1:35
When Sky was Evergreen
(tragic, Bach/Poulenc-influenced) 2:59
A Sly Wink, at that
(Irish ballad to West African) 1:57
Anglo Klaxon
(fast swing) 2:13
Vienna (postcard)
(Schoenberg-influenced, suite of short movements) 2:28
Wunder Dance
(West African) 1:51
(very sweet, gently polyrhythmic) 2:27

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A veritable banquet aboard this "Train" of improvisations: from gospel, up-tempo swing, and lush ballads to echoes of Villa-Lobos, Schoenberg, and Bach to West African, North Indian, and Irish-influenced pieces... forget about your preconceptions about 'free music' this disc sings wth passion, grace, and telepathic communication.

Michael Smolens - piano, percussion, vocal percussion, Baroque flute
Sheldon Brown - soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinet, silver and wood flutes

When Sheldon was in my "Kriya Sextet" (now an Octet) from 1981 to 1991, we would always do a ballad or waltz to change the pace in the first set, and a free improvisation in the second. My producer at the time said to me after a Yoshi's performance, "You know, your duos with Sheldon don't get the loudest applause, just the longest. Think about it." ("Yoshi's Jazz House is the West Coast's premiere jazz concert venue.) Well, I certainly did. In 1997 we did our first studio recording of all free improvisations called "Train to Tourmaline." (Actually, two of the improvisations from Yoshi's appear on this CD.)

The truth is that our "free improvisations" often sound more like tunes than one might expect. I think my exposure to and study with Art Lande was a huge influence, in addition to Sheldon and I both being experienced jazz composers who embrace many musical influences, some from different cultures. Basically, use structure to help tell stories for the listener.

For us, free improvisation is literally "free" to be whatever the moment calls for, no matter how inside or outside, familiar or unpredictable. (My exposure to and study with Art Lande was a huge influence.) One fan described us as "a couple who just kept thinking the same thoughts, nearly at the same time."


"Rooted in the modern jazz of the late '60s, their music boasts the eclecticism and expansiveness of the spacious ECM sound of the '70s, but their classical as well as West African, Irish, and North Indian influences put their freely improvised duets in original realms beyond any identifiable genres."
—Derk Richardson "Critics' Choice" from East Bay Express


"Both musicians have an exceptional command of their instruments... patient, thoughtful, and inventive...a duo of great promise."
—Jason Bivins, Cadence Magazine

"Their music has a warm spirit and an appealing sense of lyricism— definitely worth looking for."
—Stewart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal

All compositions copyright ©2002 Michael Smolens and Sheldon Brown.
©2002 Second Sight Music.