Toots Thielmans: Kenny Werner
(Toots Thielmans Website)
(Kenny Werner Website)
Toots Thielmans on Harmonica
Kenny Werner on Piano and Keyboards
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 26, 2010
(See a Review of Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at Blue Note)
This CD is among the most enchanting and gorgeous recordings of duo musicians, that I remember hearing. Kenny Werner has added keyboard string arrangements so beautifully, to enhance the purity and clarity of the piano and harmonica, that your imagination flies, and you are transported through 13 sumptuous tracks to a dreamy reverie. This is a must-have CD for all those who yearn for a refreshing interpretation of favorite ballads, some so youthful and innocent, as “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Smile”. Toots Thielmans is an iconic harmonica virtuoso, and he easily shifts (at about age 80 when this was recorded) from contemporary (“Inspiration”) to Sinatra (“My Way”). Although four tracks are listed below, each was as rapturous as the next.
#3 – Sinatra Medley – “All the Way” composed by S. Cahn – J. Van Heusen; “My Way” composed by J. Revaux – C. Francois. With embracing musicality, Kenny Werner opens the track with keyboard strings, that soon wrap around Toots’ slow, romantic harmonica solo, for “All the Way”. Then, seamlessly, Werner switches to solo piano over strings for “My Way”, before Toots returns with “All the Way”. The effect is captivating, and you’ll want to hear this track over and over.
#4 – Tender Is the Night – Composed by S. Fain – P.F. Webster. Werner and Toots switch leads in this track for one of the most gripping interpretations of “Tender Is the Night”. First you hear strings, then harmonica, then piano and strings, then all the music merges. There’s a surreal quality to this recording that sparks a mental mirage of the 1962 film. This duo never rushes the music, but rather prolongs it with sultry melodrama.
#6 – Smile – Composed by C. Chaplin. Once you’ve heard this track, no other rendition of “Smile” will suffice. Strings embellish the background, before Toots takes the solo theme, hands it later to Werner, and then receives it once again, before both artists join in the final flourish, keyboard strings included. In fact, Werner’s ability to mesh the keyboard strings as if a live orchestra were in the recording studio is nothing short of brilliant. This version of “Smile” is acutely poignant and heart-rending.
#10 – Bill Evans Medley – “Time Remembered” and “Very Early” composed by B. Evans. The strings bookend this medley, a decidedly contemporary and thoughtful track. Toots shifts the theme to Werner, leads later in the track, and then they fuse with strings for an elongated wave of rich tonality. Werner has his virtuosic turn here, with rambling, rambunctious piano solos, reserving the strings for the final moments. This track highlights the accomplished versatility of Toots and Werner. If you buy one CD this spring, make it this one. The musical experience is timeless.
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