Eric Reed & Cyrus Chestnut, duo-pianos – Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul (with Dezron Douglas, bass; Willie Jones III, drums) – Savant SCD 2104 [www.jazzdepot.com] *****:
The title sums it up pretty well. This was a live gig at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC and has all the excitement brought into the mix by most live performance recordings. As I’ve said before, I’m a nut for two-piano jazz, and some of the high points in the history of jazz have been the meetings of two top players at the double keyboards. Among them James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, and Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
I was familiar with Cyrus Chestnut’s gospel-infused keyboard style, and his ability to play in almost any style. We reviewed one of his discs recently, and his 2006 Telarc CD Genuine Chestnut is a classic. However, I was unfamiliar with Reed. He’s had albums on Billboard’s charts, has composed a number of scores for independent and mainstream movies, and leads his own group. Both pianists share a background of associations with the black church and tenures with Wynton Marsalis’ bands, and both have stylistic influences that range across Ellington, Ahmad Jamal, Monk and Bud Powell.
With Reed’s piano on the left and Chestnut’s on the right, their first two tracks demonstrate what new variations can be done on a couple standards from the Great American Songbook. Their 14-minute version of Dizzy and John Lewis’ Two Bass Hit is one of the album highlights, a real burner. Chestnut goes solo for the spiritual Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, and Reed does the same thing later with a solo on his own tune, Prayer. The title tune which closes out the session was co-composed by the two pianists and wraps things up with gusto. They both agree that the common denominator of the best jazz must be the desire to make people dance in their seats. And they do.
Most two-piano recordings don’t seem to have enough separation of the two instruments for my ears, so I love to listen to them on headphones, which exaggerates the separation.
TrackList: 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
– John Henry