Jazz pianists Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes have joined forces, not only as a married couple but as a piano duo in their new album Double Portrait. Bill Charlap is not only the son of two prominent musicians but is also a two-time Grammy Award nominee. Charlap says that Double Portrait is “a natural evolution of who we are as musicians…..”. He has a classical background and has worked with Benny Carter, Gerry Mulligan and Tony Bennett. Renee Rosnes who also has a classical and jazz background has worked with Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter and JJ Johnson. Rosnes is also a four-time Juno Award winner and the founder of SF JAZZ Collective. Concerning four hands piano, Rosnes stated, “……When twenty fingers are involved, there’s a high potential for musical clutter. Bill and I innately seem to search for clarity, and always try to put the music first.” They both combine their talents as a musical duo in Double Portrait that feature nine tracks of music delight that include The Saros Cycle written by Renee Rosnes.
The album opens with up Lyle Mays’ Chorinho, which is a popular instrumental Brazilian style. In this tune, the piano has incredible clarity in a piece that requires full control at such a brisk pace. The motion is constant and high energy with scale runs that bring a good feeling. This tune has a very cheerful quality and the upbeat character is constant. The cascading piano runs require not only good technique but delicate playing. On piano, Charlap and Rosnes do an excellent job of expressing the ecstatic spirit of this piece.
A series of rhythmically sequential, colorful chords begin the third track Ana Maria by Wayne Shorter. The harmony adds an ominous flavor but the piece still exhibits a colorful variety of effects. This piece is rich with melodies that are executed with careful voicing. Semi-detached piano runs are performed effortlessly. The chords heard at the beginning also return later in the tune. You can always hear the scale runs among the lush harmonies. The rhythm of the harmony keeps the music moving. You can hear trills and inflections. The serious and joyful qualities interchange at different times.
The swinging quality of the seventh track Inner Urge by Joe Henderson gives this tune a nice moving groove. Complicated ascending passages are heard. Piano runs at lightning speed dazzle the ears. The bass moves with a sinister undertones. Syncopation adds support to the overall structure of this tune. The variety in this tune is phenomenal that requires complete control of the piano by the artists. Melodies reach toward the top as you are expecting a huge impact. The interchange between both piano parts is flawless and has amazing balance. Scale patterns are very frequent, full of endless flavor.
The peaceful, subdued eighth track Little Glory by Gerry Mulligan are performed by Charlap and Rosnes with careful thought to the challenges of slower, ballad type pieces. In this tune, the melodies are heard with much clarity and never go out of character. You can hear every individual note as it sings with brilliance and crystal clear carefulness. Both artists could have used their amazing technique to amaze us even more but they held back to express the finer details of this tune. The chords add interesting textures that support the melody.
Two pianists who are joined together bring two different personalities but one united musical recording. You can hear the care for which they perform and express their music. They are definitely two of the finest jazz pianists today. Double Portrait was basically a piano duet album that featured music with different feels. The difficulty of not only playing the notes but projecting the true essence was established successfully in this album. When you play the piano, you really do not need other instruments because of the versatility of the instrument. Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes represent the driving forces that keep the art of jazz alive.