I first encountered the marvelous pianist Rossano Sportiello almost fifteen years ago thanks to Dan Barrett: I was an acolyte immediately. Maestro Sportiello’s delightful lively personality and music came from the same gracious intelligence, emotion, and mastery.
I haven’t seen the Maestro in a few years, but here is evidence that he sustains his splendid art while making it look easy.
We are indebted to Malcolm Frazer for making it possible for Rossano and the marvelous trumpeter Lewis R. Taylor to perform several unrehearsed duets at his home . . . and sharing them with us. (The link is to Malcolm’s YouTube channel, where he presents one earthly delight after another.) I had not heard of Lewis before these videos, but he dazzles me with a kind of unpretentious brilliance, perfectly suited to duet playing, which is, after all, the art of in-the-moment listening and responding while the music unrolls without stopping. (I think of Jake Hanna saying, “Pay attention or you’re dead!” as the only apt commentary on this demanding art.)
Here they are: wondrous play at the highest level: I think of improvisation that is both conversational and intensely demanding, like juggling plates on the wing of a biplane — and for two, not simply solo.
I WANT TO BE HAPPY:
IF DREAMS COME TRUE:
MELANCHOLY BABY (with the less-played verse):
What beautiful gifts these two and Malcolm have given us: imperishable lyricism and swing. If I have to drop names, I can: Fats, Johnny Guarnieri, Dick Hyman, Dave McKenna,Harry Edison, Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff . . . but the names I’d like you to go away with are Rossano Sportiello and Lewis Taylor. Please.
May your happiness increase!