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Bill Charlap-Renee Rosnes at Musical Instrument Museum

Patricia Myers By

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Bill Charlap-Renee Rosnes
Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, Arizona
June 4, 2014

Facing each other at a nestled pair of nine-foot concert grand pianos, Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes combined their 20 fingers for a compelling concert that didn't rely solely on the Great American Songbook. While there was a bit of George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers, the program offered a refreshingly varied and intriguing repertoire.

They mostly worked from charts related to their CD, Double Portrait (Blue Note, 2014). Playing with the piano tops removed, their eye contact was supplemented by slight head nods and an occasional hand-lift by Charlap. The all- duets program had no solo selections or vocals, nor did the pair change pianos to afford listeners better views of each at the keys, as sometimes occurs in two-piano performances.

Charlap welcomed the audience of 300 by acknowledging that the pair is married (2007 in New York's Lincoln Center). The audience laughed when they then began to play Frank Loesser's "Never Will I Marry," with Rosnes handling most of the treble melody improvisations as Charlap complemented with chords, then delivered his own treatment of the theme.

The keyboard interplay was most strongly evident on Joe Henderson's long-heralded "Inner Urge," Rosnes lithe on the treble clef and Charlap supporting with percussive maneuvers. During their exploration of Gershwin's "My Man Is Gone" from Porgy and Bess, Rosnes delivered a captivating rhapsodic segment. Later, their exposition of that composer's "Embraceable You" featured Charlap playing with only his right hand for a while, then contributing a lavish sequence of block chords.

Throughout, there was no inkling of competition, but instead a coalescence that had each building from the other's excursions to complement with chords, add percussive elements or extend a fresh style line.

Charlap, who handled the commentary between songs, introduced the gently swinging "With a Song in My Heart" by saying it was Rodgers' s favorite of his own compositions. Another swinging selection was the lovely "Gone with the Wind," interpreted with sophisticated invention between the two.

When it came to the near-requisite Antonio Carlos Jobim chart, the pair chose the lesser known "Double Rainbow" (Chovendo Na Roseira/Raining on the Rosebush)" that is a Brazilian waltz rather than the usual samba. The pair also performed a second waltz, "Little B's Poem," written by Bobby Hutcherson in 1962 for his infant son, Barry, a nod to the four years the vibraphonist and Rosnes performed together in the SFJAZZ Collective's inaugural quartet, beginning in 2004. "Green Chimneys," a relatively obscure composition by Thelonious Monk, exposed the style of his incomparable musical architecture via four hands elegantly flowing and punctuating the changes.

Then came a fast-tempo bebop chart, Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo," to further boost the musical energy. At concert's end, the audience applauded long enough to win an encore, Jerome Kern's and Oscar Hammerstein's lovely evergreen, "The Last Time I Saw Paris," delivered in a gently romantic mode. The performance was reminiscent of the Hank Jones-Tommy Flanagan duets of the 1980s, this couple as great together as that pair, and also as perfect as the legendary film dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.


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