AMN Reviews: Sikora / Culpo Duo – The Paris Sessions, Volume 1: Mimesis (2020; Bandcamp)

In late February and early March, saxophonist Catherine Sikora was in Paris recording with classical pianist Christopher Culpo when COVID-19 broke out. She rapidly (and wisely) headed home to New York, but not before recording several albums worth of material with Culpo. This first offering is a freely improvised duo with Sikora on soprano.

For the most part, The Paris Sessions is low-key, exhibiting melancholy and longing. Culpo provides slow-paced, non-repeating piano melodies over which Sikora spontaneously adds serpentine patterns. Their playing is fluid and lyrical. But not all of the album is purely introspective – a number of pieces exhibit overtly tense moments. Indeed, the duo feeds off of each other’s cues, as their lines swell and fade mostly in unison. Sikora remains largely in a set range of notes and eschews the outside techniques that she has become known for in more experimental settings.

Thus, while not in any way mainstream, Sikora and Culpo have produced a compelling and pleasant set of exploratory improv that makes for good music on a rainy Sunday morning. Or any other morning for that matter.