CD Review: Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes: Double Portrait (Blue Note)by Tom Gray
In October 2008, the husband-and-wife duo of Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes charmed a Ronnie Scott’s audience with their effortless demonstration of that tricky art form, the jazz piano duet. Thankfully, their beguiling musical partnership has now been beautifully captured on record, in the generous acoustics of Manhattan’s Kaufmann Concert Hall.
These are two of New York’s most elegant pianists, though with contrasting styles. Charlap’s feet are planted firmly in the mainstream and his recordings of Bernstein, Gershwin and Carmichael tunes have established him as one of the finest interpreters of the American songbook. Rosnes has more modern leanings, with overtones of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea prominent in her radiant lines.
The varied material on this album accommodates both pianists’ approaches well, ranging from an urbanely swinging account of Dietz and Schwartz’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’, Jobim’s ‘Double Rainbow’ set as a sprightly jazz waltz and infused with Debussy-like harmonies through to Wayne Shorter’s ‘Ana Maria’, delivered with a subtly funky undertow. On a breakneck ‘Inner Urge’, it sounds as if Rosnes had coerced her husband into a little more risk-taking than he is used to, making for the album’s only really edgy moments during some percussive exchanges.
But the lasting impression is of the luxurious and full sound created when this pair combines, using the 176 keys available to optimum effect while doing a great job of not treading on each other’s toes (not easy in this format). Sometimes, a little goes a long way with music so rich, and at 50 minutes, the album’s length is well judged. Nevertheless, for those who saw that London performance and for all jazz piano obsessives, this should be an essential purchase. Maybe Ronnie's will welcome them back.