Allan Harris & Takana Miyamoto: Convergence (2012)
The eternal bond between piano and voice in jazz was cemented long before pianist Bill Evans and vocalist Tony Bennett ever took to the studio together, but they elevated this union of sounds to artistic heights ne'er before attained. Bennett and Evans erased the notions of vocals on top and pianist-as-mere-accompanist with The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (Fantasy, 1975) and its less glorified follow-up, Together Again (Improv, 1977). They created a synergy in song craft that few before or since have come close to matching. What's even more remarkable, is how stylistically mismatched they technically were. Bennett the extrovert and Evans the introvert don't make for a good match on paper, but on tape they were mesmerizing.
Likewise, vocalist Allan Harris and pianist Takana Miyamoto don't initially come to mind as the perfect candidates to honor the musical collaboration(s) between Bennett and Evans. Harris' warm, brandied baritone brings to mind Nat King Cole rather than Bennett and Miyamoto has a more firm sense of pianistic placement than Evans. But that's beside the point. This pair isn't trying to recreate anything and, instead, look to honor what Evans and Bennett had with their own takes on some of the same material. What they do have in common with that classic coupling is a whole-is-greater-than- the-sum-of-its-parts connection, which makes this album so powerful.
Harris has had plenty of experience working with top-flight pianists, like Bill Charlap, Tommy Flanagan and Eric Reed, and Miyamoto is best known for her work with singers Nnenna Freelon and Rene Marie, so they arrive at this meeting place well equipped for the journey. They immediately establish themselves with an emotionally resonant reading of "My Foolish Heart" and a livelier than expected "Days Of Wine And Roses." Deep connections and confidence in conception are evident from the outset and continue to build on their rapport throughout. "But Beautiful" is colored by myriad shades of emotional color, "The Touch Of Your Lips" moves from sly intimacy to overjoyed shouts from the rooftops, and "Some Other Time" finds the right balance between happiness for what's been had and regret for what hasn't.
Harris' warm and inviting voice is a magnet for the ears, occasionally taking attention away from the idea of piano-and-voice-as-one, but he and Miyamoto usually manage to intertwine their sensibilities into a single, flowing presence. This music never serves as subservient imitation, thus calling this a "tribute" album would diminish what Harris and Miyamoto have created. Convergence is a gripping program that's best viewed as a companion piece to the Bennett and Evans recordings.
Track Listing: My Foolish Heart; Days Of Wine And Roses; But Beautiful; Waltz For Debby; You Don't Know What Love Is; Young And Foolish; The Touch Of Your Lips; You Must Believe In Spring; Some Other Time; We'll Be Together Again.
Personnel: Allan Harris: vocals; Takana Miyamoto: piano.
Record Label: Love Productions Records