Five duets and two solo pieces apiece give veteran pianists Marian McPartland and Willie Pickens plenty of room to stretch out. This live session was recorded just before Christmas last year at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase in Chicago. The program of chestnuts leaves room for individual interpretation, as well as the chance to recall a familiar melody or two. Handfuls of keys are flying everywhere; but, with purpose. Pickens, who began his career with Eddie Harris on his memorable hit record "Exodus," expresses from a direction opposite to McPartland. However, they listen to each other and enjoy the happening.
Pickens' solo improvisation on "Spring Is Here" and "It's Only a Paper Moon" spells adventure and excitement. His emotional swagger and emphatic strength jar the senses. The Twilight Zone enters the house, as Pickens stretches to find new and interesting ways to express his views. McPartland's solo offering of "Autumn Nocturne" and "Close Your Eyes," on the other hand, reflect her penchant for traditional harmony and a conservative landscape. Adventure never escapes her, though, as the veteran pianist still finds new ways of approaching her themes. Seeking ways to maintain space throughout, she interprets the songs in her own sweet way. The two pianists complement each other well. Both veteran artists prefer some form of rhythm suitable for swinging. Familiar melodies are never lost, and each chestnut is treated with respect. Highly recommended, you'll find this two-piano session exciting, and still within the tradition.
Personnel: Marian McPartland, Willie Pickens- piano.