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Two Pianos at Birdland

- Jazz and Cabaret Performance Reviews

Two Pianos
Featuring:
Roger Kellaway
(Kellaway Website)
and
Bill Charlap
(Charlap Trio)

Special Guest:
Yue on Violin

Produced by Stratta/Philips Productions
(Stratta/Philips Website)

At Birdland
315 West 44th Street, NYC
212.581.3080
www.birdlandjazz.com
Gianni Valenti, Owner
Andy Kaufman, Business Manager
Tarik Osman, Manager



Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 10, 2004

(See Kellaway Cello Quartet CD Review and Yue/Kellaway CD Review).

Two grand pianos, two piano virtuosos. And, the team of Ettore Stratta and Pat Philips has done it again, with a new and different combination of musicians, this time a fusion of pianos and an occasional violin. Bill Charlap and Roger Kellaway, renowned pianists, arrangers, and composers, with two distinctly different styles, Charlap more jazz and Kellaway more contemporary, fused their performance tonight into a most interesting evening of familiar and not so familiar pieces, at once serene, at once serendipitous.

This second set at Birdland began with Ain’t Misbehavin’, soft and textured, staccato and sensitive. They soon moved to a Swing rhythm, jazzy and melodic, fused toward the finale with a steady foot-tapping beat. They played Duke Ellington, with an American Indian motif gone bluesy. Kellaway sings as he plays, emotionally driven, while Charlap seems more introspective. New Orleans sounds appeared, and these two merged into each other’s improvisations.

This was the final set of the week’s performances, and the audience seemed settled in, perhaps there for one final jazz piano treat. Charlap and Kellaway did not disappoint, and they ended one song with a long and mutual piano roll. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, opened by Charlap, turns into The Nearness of You. Kellaway registered rippling crescendos in this keyboard conversation.

Take the “A” Train, complex and jazzy as a full orchestra, found Charlap playing with one hand, as Kellaway took command of his entire keyboard. Charlap then pounced upon high to low notes, continuing Kellaway’s theme, while Kellaway hit high chords with his elbows, standing for effect. Charlap followed as if to read his piano partner’s mind. New riffs unfolded as the former wound down, seamlessly re-generating, and with increasing momentum. High notes on one piano were answered with low notes on the other. The train slowed down to a perfect finale.

Yue, a lovely, young violinist, joined the pianists in a Grapelli mood, but her classical training shone through in scintillating accompaniment, as she took the piano themes, while the pianos created a see-saw effect through high and low chords. In a Sentimental Mood, an Ellington composition showcased the softness of Yue’s vibrant violin. Indian Love Call kept the three performers together in an improvisational and inspirational playfulness. Contrasting rhythms preceded Kellaway’s mellifluous theme, and Yue drove the piece with unique sound and texture worthy of her classical abilities and background.

Kudos to Gianni Valenti, Birdland, and Stratta/Philips Productions for this superb musical surprise.




Roger Kellaway on Piano
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Bill Charlap, Ettore Stratta, Pat Philips, Roger Kellaway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Gianni Valenti and Roger Kellaway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


James, Bartender
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Tarik Osman and Roger Kellaway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Ettore Stratta and Erika Weander
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Pat Philips and Mrs. Kellaway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Bill Charlap and Roger Kellaway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


Bill Charlap, Yue, and Roger Kellaway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower







For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net