It is not easy to make 2 pianos work in a jazz context; mostly because we NEVER actually do it. But also because it’s easy to get in each other’s way and hard to keep things interesting from a timbre perspective. But because these pianists have great ears, adaptability, and musicianship I really think we pulled it off. And actually we only scratched the surface of what’s possible in this format (Do I hear a volume two coming?).
Clay Giberson and I met in the early 1990’s at University of Miami, so when I was thinking of like-minded pianists to invite to Maryland to perform, he immediately sprang to mind. I loved the vibe of his song Open Road and it seemed a natural fit for the first track on this CD. The beautiful ballad, Despedida by Mario Laginha, is featured next and is a great blend of classical and chamber jazz sensibilities.
Vardan Ovsepian was really the inspiration for trying this format and thus this project. We met about ten years ago when I was teaching at Towson University and he would come to give clinics and perform. One day we jumped into a practice room with 2 pianos and just started playing. At first, it was my originals and then his, and then eventually we just played—no structure, no form, just music. There were moments of magic, fun, risk and reward. Hopefully you can hear some of that in these two improvised selections.
Harry Appelman is one of the most underrated pianists around today. I knew we would have a blast in a 2 piano format. Listen to his unique original Viento de Marzo and you’ll get a window into his creativity and musicality. After learning Clay’s tune Passing By for his concert, I ended up playing it on a lot of the other ones. The trading at this end of this one was particularly fun!
So I grew up in Va. Beach. Not exactly a hotbed for jazz but one contemporary of mine was the drummer Scott McLemore. Years went by and I ended up in Baltimore and he ended up in Iceland married to a fabulous pianist, Sunna Gunnlaugs. We reconnected when they stayed at my house during a U.S. tour and Sunna and I got the chance to do a 2 piano concert. Sunna has such a unique sound and approach to music, which is demonstrated here on her hauntingly beautiful song Mindful. We also had a lot of fun with standards like Autumn Leaves on this concert.
Please support these wonderful musicians:
Recorded at Monteabaro Recital Hall, Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, Howard Community College