There have been very few dual-piano albums over the years. There was An Evening with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, as well as the Labeque sisters, but these came out twenty years ago. Then over the month we have not one, not two, but three albums all at once. They’re all different from each other, and each reveal the creativity and virtuosity of the pianists.
The first of these is Chick Corea and Italian pianist Stefano Bollani Orvieto, recorded at the Winter Umbria Jazz Festival, on ECM. It is a tour de force by two major players, and you can tell they’re improvising and having a lot of fun. They challenge each other, poke humorous phrases in. They play some classics like “Jitterbug Waltz” and update the ballad “If I Should Lose You”, spicing it up and making it seem happy. . They also vamp nicely on “Blues In F”.
The second album is from Alan Pasqua, an LA-based pianist who teaches at USC and has played a lot with Peter Erskine, Darek Oles, and the late Dave Carpenter. It’s called Twin Bill / Two Piano Music of Bill Evans. On it Pasqua displays his love and respect for Bill Evans in two-piano inventions that do Evans proud. Pasqua also returns to an in a beautiful originalof his own, “Grace”.
The final dual piano album has yet another concept: It’s by Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays and it’s called Modern Music, composed and arranged by Patrick Zimmerli, a guy I hadn’t heard of. It is a rigorous album and it sounds to me like they’re performing from sheet music, some written by them, some by other composers. And they add that special touch that improvisors do when tackling written charts. On it you can find an excerpt from Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, a Philip Glass String Quartet arranged for two pianos, and some originals as well. Both pianists are incredible technicians, but the sound is never cold or clinical. They imbue it with a jazz musician’s feel and touch.
I think all 3 albums are great and wonder why it’s taken so long; also why all three albums came out at the same time. Who cares? They’re here now, and you should check them out.
Here are a couple of cuts: Corea / Bollani doing “If I Should Lose You”, and Hays and Mehldau doing a two-piano excerpt from a classic Steve Reich “Music for Eighteen Musicians”
Corea / Bollani: If I Should Lose You
Hays and Mehldau: Excerpt from “Music for Eighteen Musicians”
And finally, a Bill Evans song called “Very Early” from Alan Pasqua’s cd Twin Bill: