Duo Piano: Two For the Ages

Ken Dryden By

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Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes

Double Portrait

Blue Note


Eric Reed & Cyrus Chestnut

Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul



The debate continues as to whether having two pianos is merely a novelty or something that inspires great performances. If two complementary pianists join forces, check their respective egos and tune in to their partner, magic can indeed happen.

It should be no surprise that Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes have wanted to record a duo session for some time. Both are among the top echelon of pianists of their generation and have recorded extensively as leaders. Married in 2007, they have his and hers grand pianos nestled into one another in their home and played a series of duo concerts together in the US and Europe last year prior to recording Double Portrait.

But the Charlap-Rosnes duo does not settle for a typical set list. They kick off with fusion keyboardist Lyle Mays' pulsating Brazilian theme "Chorinho," immediately followed by a lighthearted arrangement of the Antonio Carlos Jobim title track that shimmers. A trio of standards includes a dramatic, spacious interpretation of George Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" and a playful rendition of "Never Will I Marry" that swings. The duo makes generous use of the sustain pedal in their gorgeous treatment of Wayne Shorter's "Ana Maria," which seems to arrive like gentle waves at sunset. They give Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" a vigorous workout, likely the first duo piano team to tackle it. Gerry Mulligan's "Little Glory" never gained much exposure, as it appeared on the baritonist's final studio CD (Dragonfly), but it is one of his most lyrical ballads. Charlap and Rosnes team up for a reflective interpretation that glistens with elegance. Rosnes' "The Saros Cycle" constantly shifts its focus in a dazzling display.

Eric Reed and Cyrus Chestnut each have impressive credentials and have composed and recorded extensively as leaders over the past two decades as well. Together with bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Willie Jones III on Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul, Reed and Chestnut launch the first duo piano recording made at Dizzy's Club.

It's apparent from the start that the pair have the knack for complementing one another's playing without getting in the way. Starting out with the venerable favorite "I'll Remember April," which opens with a playful calypso air, the musicians are audibly enjoying themselves on stage. Their stripped-down introduction to "All the Things You Are" is elegant and lyrical, with the piece gradually simmered to a climax before wrapping up in low-key fashion. Their perky rendition of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" isn't played as a museum piece, opening in striding fashion then swinging like mad while incorporating bop and a few humorous touches. Chestnut's solo treatment of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" and Reed's solo of his composition "Prayer" reflect their respective deep backgrounds playing in church. Wrapping up this delightful concert is the pianists' blues-drenched improvised title track, which will leave no jazz fan in doubt of the abilities of Reed and Chestnut, both of whom have added an important chapter to the history of piano duos.

Tracks and Personnel

Double Portrait

Tracks: Chorinho; Double Rainbow (Choveno Na Roseira); Ana Maria; The Saros Cycle; My Man's Gone Now; Dancing In the Dark; Inner Urge; Little Glory; Never Will I Marry.

Personnel: Bill Charlap: piano; Renee Rosnes: piano.

Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul

Tracks: I'll Remember April; All The Things You Are; Two Bass Hit; Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing; It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing; Prayer; Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul.

Personnel: Eric Reed: Piano; Cyrus Chestnut: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Willie Jones III: drums.

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