Piano and guitar is a relatively rare combination for a number of reasons including overlapping ranges and having the similar timbre of percussive string. Yes, players of both instruments spend a lot of time perfecting a singing or legato sound, but in the end they are what they are.
Instead of fighting it, with 2-Man Jazz Band
, guitarist Rick Hannah
and pianist Erwin Siffer have put together eleven arrangements that revel in their instrument's sound and the myriad ways in which they can be interwoven as solo and accompaniment (as well as unison playing) gets passed back and forth effortlessly. In the liner notes, Hannah mentions Undercurrent
(1962, United Artists) by Bill Evans
and Jim Hall
as the only example of this instrumental pairing he could think of. The reference to that justifiably well-known and superb album is not meant as a comparison; where Undercurrent
is introspective, haunting and ruminating, 2-Man Jazz Band
is bright, cheery and extroverted.
Both instruments are closely recorded, with Hannah's in the foreground. Siffer's piano is quite bright, which when coupled with his sharp attack could swamp the guitar. However, Hannah's attack is very much pick against string, causing a short, distinct space between notes which cuts through the piano when the two are playing together. That said, the two players know each other well and it shows in the arrangements, which sound spontaneous and effortless. This is music which brings a smile because the joy of playing, and playing together comes through loud and clear.
The tunes vary from older standards (Jule Styne's "I Fall In Love Too Easily") to Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Children's Games" to a pop classic by John Lennon and Paul McCartney ("Norwegian Wood") and four originals. Of particular interest are three tunes by pianist Lennie Tristano
, and saxophonists Lee Konitz
and Warne Marsh
: "Lennie's Pennies"
(a reworking of "Pennies From Heaven"), "Lennie-Bird"
(a reworking of "How High The Moon") and "Background Music"
(a reworking of "All Of Me").
The music of Tristano, and hence of his disciples, Konitz and Marsh has been subject to much discussion and wide-ranging reaction. It has been called intellectual, cold and unemotional but also, on the other hand, highly exciting and continually surprising in the way it mixes the styles of be-bop and Lester Young
with many harmonic and metrical intricacies.
In any case, guitar arrangements of this music are relatively rare because of the fast tempos and twisting lines which do not lay under the hands naturally. Siffer and Hannah really shine in these pieces and get inside the style, as a listen to the originals will immediately show. 2-Man Jazz Band
is a fine example of musical rapport, technical finesse and high musicianship.