Personnel: Randy Klein (piano); Alex Skolnick (guitar); Boris Kozlov (electric bass).
Audio Mixer: Daryl Bornstein.
Liner Note Author: Randy Klein.
Recording information: BiCoastal Music, Ossining, NY (10/2010).
Photographer: Lena Adasheva.
Pianist Randy Klein is a talented composer and lyricist who has written extensively for film, television, and theater, though he has had plenty of opportunity to show off his jazz chops since launching his Jazzheads label in the early 1990s. This session is a bit unusual as it is divided into a series of duets with two different musicians: electric guitarist Alex Skolnick and electric bassist Boris Koslov (who is better known for his work on acoustic bass). All of the tunes are Klein originals, alternating tracks with each partner. Skolnick is an interesting choice, as most of his career had been spent playing heavy metal. But the match recommended by Klein's radio promoter proves inspired, as Skolnick absorbs the subtlety of the pianist's music and proves himself to be a good listener, complementing Klein's work with thoughtful solos and accompaniment, beginning with the infectious opener "Exalted Kingdom," which is reminiscent of the kind of duets Chick Corea often plays with vibraphonist Gary Burton. The soft, understated samba setting of "No" is full of inspired moments, while the lush "In the Twilight Hours" has a sense of melancholy. The tracks featuring Boris Koslov are eye-opening as well. There's a lot to like about the lyrical "Dear Charles Mingus," with its mix of romanticism, nostalgia, and humor, with Koslov's sublime playing being the perfect match for Klein's whimsical piano. The elegant ballad "Lark" suggests a morning sunrise, as the pianist and bassist deftly engage one another in a delightful musical conversation. The lovely "Tea for Three" has a reflective mood, as if Klein was recalling a first love from his youth, and the delicate ballad "Inner Voice" has a child-like innocence, as Klein's spacious chords engage the ebb and flow of Koslov's bass. What's Next? is an all-around success. ~ Ken Dryden