I’m automatically predisposed toward two-piano jazz, and a duo would have to be pretty bad to get me to knock it, but this one is A-1 material all the way! Larry Willis has made a number of recordings for Mapleshade and produced many others. Tony Pancella was born in Italy, has appeared on a dozen CDs, and after spending time on the New York jazz scene and studying with Larry Willis now teaches and performs in Europe. The two reunited at an Italian jazz festival and in 2003 toured Italy as a duo. This disc is the latest edition of eight of their musical conversations.
Unlike jazz improvisers who are thrown together for the first time in the studio for a duo album, Williams and Pancella have an intimate feeling for each other’s approach to the keyboard, which comes out in these smooth and swinging improvisations. There are two Willis originals, one by Pancello, an Ellington classic, and the closer is Miles Davis’ hit Blue In Green.
Mapleshade records in the analog domain to a highly modded semi-pro tape deck, using minimal miking and many of their own audio tweaks. Then the tapes are processed for DVD with a custom A/D converter at a very high sampling rate. The sound of the two pianos is quite different from other commercial piano duo recordings. It is more realistic and authentic, and the solid imaging makes it easier to pick out the spatial location of the two pianists. If you want to separate the two improvisers even more, listen on stereo headphones.
TrackList: Alter Ego, Annika’s Lullabye, To Wisdom the Prize, Just Wait and See, Don’t Blame Me, Single Petal of a Rose, Alone Together, Blue In Green.
– John Henry