For the CD reissue of this session, two selections were added to the original seven-song LP release. Pianist Tommy Flanagan and bassist George Mraz do not really stick to the plot of the title, playing a few bop standards that are neither blues nor ballads (such as "Scrapple From the Apple," "Star Eyes" and "How High the Moon"), in addition to some blues and ballads (most notably Tom McIntosh's haunting "With Malice Toward None"). The intimate and mostly lightly swinging music is fine, but one does miss the momentum that would have been provided by a drummer.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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This is an excellent record. Both musicians are masters of their art, their choice of material is ideal, and they play throughout with a combination of professional skill and creative flair. As befits a one time Ella accompanist, Flanagan brings a song-like lyricism even to tunes like Scrapple and Birk's Work, while on ballads like Star Eyes and Spring one can almost hear the words. Mraz is outstanding on Sarka but he paces Flanagan well on every track, his tone is full and sonorous, and his rhythmic attitudes are steeped in the same relaxed and swinging groove. Both players have the right degree of attack and this ensures that a drummer is not missed. It is a record that will hardly be considered as world shatteringly innovatory in the history books, but it will get plenty of playing time.
-Barry McRae (Jazz Journal, London)
Tommy Flanagan was heard on countless records in the fifties. In the sixties, Time or Newsweek ran a brief story on him as everybody's favorite accompanist. He was present superbly in that role on records as diverse as Rollins's "Saxophone Colossus" and Pee Wee Russell's "Swingin' with Pee Wee" (both on Prestige). He accompanied Ella Fitzgerald for a decade; and the contention of the album notes that his "consistency is remarkable" is nothing but fair. In 1977 he made a trio recording with Elvin Jones and George Mraz - "Eclypso" Here he follows it up in a duo with George Mraz. Mraz is one of my favorite bassists of his generation, superior (I feel) to his European comperes Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Miroslav Vitous. His delicate tone and unostentatious fluency suit him well as a partner for the always immaculate Flanagan. On Blues for Sarka he plays the melody statement arco with the ease and lyricism of a tenor saxophone. He and Flanagan get a particularly good interplpy on the 'bop' pieces Scrapple from the Apple and Birk's Works, where they achieve a springy brightness. Of all the pianists reviewed here, Flanagan is the only one whose work reminds one at times of Powell. But his music is open and happy, whether on the sprightly Blue Twenty or in the ballads They Say It's Spring and With Malice Towards None. There is, admittedly, a harmonic predictability in Flanagan's playing - as in that of most players; but this is a delightful album that grows on one.
- CODA, Canada