I’ve been at many of their live performances and I think this is the first CD to full capture the scope of what they offer so generously. Perhaps some of it has to do with their being able to record on two pianos: they are a devoted couple for sure, but the freedom, never verbalized on stage, to have the whole bench and keyboard to oneself, could be liberating. I won’t ask. Even in 2018, some facts should stay private.
When I’ve seen them perform, audiences are on their feet at the end of the concert — and it’s not because they want to be the first out to their cars. Rather, Paolo and Stephanie are not only wonderful pianists and great players, but they are old-fashioned performers, dazzling us every time.
The notion of “performers” may get under the skin of some fans, who insist that their beloved artists are akin to Plato’s mad creators, letting the made-up-right-this-moment transformative energy flow through them like electricity. What those severe elders don’t understand is that everyone who plays or sings rehearses — so the “jam session” “impromptu” glories we revel in are, in fact, the results of years of practice. So what Paolo and Stephanie create is polished: let’s say their spiritual model is Dick Hyman, not George Zack (you could look him up). And what they have to play is plenty.
If you know Paolo and Stephanie, you know that initially they had very different ways of approaching the piano: Paolo’s hero is Erroll Garner; Stephanie comes straight from James P. Johnson and his not-brother Pete. And as they’ve grown and played together, their influences have melded in the nicest ways, but each of them has retained a deep individuality. Thus it’s not two artists trying to sound like each other, but working lovingly to complement each other.
The result is delightfully varied: each performance is, without artifice, a whole history of jazz piano, from Joplin to the present moment, seamless and convincing. Since Paolo and Stephanie are world-travelers and multi-lingual, this ease of movement makes each performance a small yet deeply felt travelogue. We’re invited to come along, and the cabin is first-class.
The repertoire on this new disc is wide-ranging, but always deeply melodic, and the melodic thread is never lost or abandoned even in the most elaborately glittering improvisations. An analytical jazz fan will find much to marvel at; your relative who protests that (s)he “hates jazz” will also. Here’s the tune list:
1. Call Me Madam Medley (Berlin) – 6:30
2. Marie (Berlin) – 4:55
3. Make Believe (Kern, Hammerstein II) – 5:01
4. The Lambeth Walk (Gay, Furber) – 3:49
5. Torna a Surriento / Anema e Core (Curtis, Curtis / D’Esposito, Manlio) – 6:44
6. If I Had a Million Dollars (Malneck, Mercer) – 4:04
7. Heartaches (Hoffman, Klenner) – 3:29
8. The Music Man Medley (Willson) – 7:07
9. An Affair to Remember (Warren, Adamson, McCarey) – 4:50
10. West Side Story Medley (Bernstein, Sondheim) – 7:28
11. Penny Lane (McCartney, Lennon) – 4:57
12. Mr. Sandman (Ballard) – 3:59
If you’re not humming one melody or another, reading those words, you need this CD even more. And for those who know and love these songs, BROADWAY AND MORE is a treat.
Here you can hear other samples from BROADWAY AND MORE, purchase a disc or download the music.
May your happiness increase!