Some listeners who know the glowing pianistics of Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi will look at their new double-CD release, one disc celebrating Stephanie playing James P. Johnson, the other doing the same with Paolo playing Erroll Garner and think, “Those crazy kids. How long can a mixed marriage last? Is there couples’ counselling for duo-pianists?”
But it’s all piano jazz, rollicking, soulful, pensive. And history is on the side of expansiveness, not contraction. If you lived in New York in 1944-5, you could go to hear the Erroll Garner Trio (with John Simmons and Doc West) playing on “Swing Street,” that block of Fifty-Second Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, then you could walk to the nearest IRT Broadway line, drop a nickel in the turnstile, and ride down to Greenwich Village, the Pied Piper or the Riviera, to hear James P. Johnson (and Willie “the Lion” Smith and a young Dick Hyman) play. It was all the same beautiful world. And that musical expansiveness continues on this CD set.
If you like metaphor, and I do, the more fanciful the better, I imagine Paolo and Stephanie painting the practice room in their house. Paolo has already methodically painted the walls and ceiling blue — sky-blue for the walls, dark blue for the ceiling, and Stephanie is on a ladder, painting silver luminous stars on the ceiling. Then they switch, and Paolo paints a door pink while Stephanie finishes the trim. And they fold the dropcloths and clean the brushes together, before collapsing in the next room while the paint dries.
They both believe in swing; they both play the piano with orchestral sweep; they both love melodies and their embellishments. And when the two-CD set is over, all a listener can do is marvel at the way dissimilar approaches reach the same gorgeous objectives.
But enough words. Perhaps a few sounds?
James P. Johnson’s aptly named JINGLES, by Stephanie:
Erroll Garner’s MISTY, by Paolo:
Having heard these beautiful forays into jazz, you don’t need a lot of explanation. And certainly one of the nicest things about this CD set is that it is a musical metaphor for our best and rarest behavior: that we are all different, that Stephanie isn’t Paolo, that James P. isn’t Erroll, but that we come together in harmony. And harmonies. We could all learn that life isn’t Harlem uptown, that cutting-contests have their place but they aren’t a way to live. Peaceable swingdom, rather.
The set is a beautiful package — wonderful recorded sound, pleasing design, and annotations by Paolo, Stephanie, Scott Brown, and Mark Borowsky. You can see the tune listing here. And I emphasize that this set isn’t an exercise in imitation. Evocation, yes, but Stephanie and Paolo bring their own personalities to the music at every turn. Paolo joins Stephanie for a few James P. compositions; Stephanie returns the favor on the second disc, and since Erroll played most of his life in the trio format, Paolo is accompanied by Roberto Piccolo, string bass; Nicola Stranieri, drums. It can be purchased as a two-disc set or as a digital download. Either way, it will bring joy.
As the deep-voiced announcers used to say, “Now, HERE’S how to order!”: http://stephanietrick.com/CD_Order_Form2020_JPEG.pdf.
May your happiness increase!