Last Sunday, February 12, 2012, I was privileged to be one of a hushed audience witnessing deeply moving improvisations. The explorations were created by pianist Michael Kanan and guitarist Peter Bernstein, and these duets took place at Michael’s new venue, “The Drawing Room,” 70 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, New York.*
I don’t use “Du holde Kunst” — a phrase by Franz von Schober that begins Schubert’s “An die Musik” — “To (the Art) of Music” — lightly. I knew “holde” as “holy,” although others translate it as “lovely,” “gracious,” “hallowed.” The source material for the duo improvisations was clearly secular — themes by Van Heusen, Gershwin, Arlen, and others. But it was clear from the first notes played by either man that we were in the presence of something far from the ordinary. The audience heard it; you will too.
The music enacted a wonderful paradox: two individualists, each going his own way but intuitively connecting, commenting — creating a synergy that was more than simply adding one instrumental voice to another. Peter and Michael both spun out clear, translucent lines — but their combination had an orchestral density, although never loud or overly assertive.
Although their approach was serious, even reverent, they are truly playful musicians — you will hear many in-jokes and commentaries, puckish exchanges that made audience members around me smile.
Hear, savor, admire.
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU
COME RAIN OR COME SHINE
YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM
SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE
WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
*The Drawing Room is a large quiet airy room with a fine piano and breathing space. Michael plans to have events like this one several times a month; the admission price was only $10; I found parking, and the subway stop is just a few hundred feet away.