Photo Credit: Dave Sweeney

Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes

Program included: Four-hand jazz piano duets by two of the premiere jazz pianists

Two of the premiere jazz pianists and we've got them both! This husband and wife duo recorded Double Portrait together for Blue Note, and their collaboration produces exquisite four-hand jazz piano duets.


Between songs during the April 6 performance Bill Charlap recounted as a young man meeting the songwriter Jule Styne. He asked Styne the secret of writing a good popular song. Styne replied, “It should be melodically simple and harmonically attractive.”

That pretty much describes the songbook Charlap offered with his musical partner and spouse Renee Rosnes: tunes mostly from the first half of the 20th Century, composed by major songwriting teams: Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; and equally engaging tunes by lesser known composers Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, Bernice Petkere, and Frank Loesser.

To be specific: With a Song in my Heart, Lullaby of the Leaves, Spring is Here, Dancing in the Dark, Just in Time, My Funny Valentine, I Should Care, The Last Time I Saw Paris. Songs made popular in Broadway shows, by singers including Anita O’Day, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, and Ella Fitzgerald, and the bands of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.

At the front of the room were nestled two Steinways, each over 120 years old, facing each other so that Charlap and Rosnes could maintain eye contact. But how do two pianists manage to play jazz together without getting in each other’s way?

Well, Charlap and Rosnes do what all jazz musicians do: they take turns. When one plays the melody, the other accompanies, or “comps.” During improvisation choruses, they take turns improvising 8 bars, or 16 bars, or a complete chorus. When one improvises a melodic idea, the other picks it up and develops it.

Each pianist sounded distinctly. There was no aural mushiness. The clarity may have been thanks to the room acoustics, it could have been the pianos, it could have been the musicians. Musical partners, maintaining eye contact, often smiling at each other.

Special moments that spoke to me were Charlap’s rapid-fire technique on John Coltrane’s “Spiral;” the ferocious tempo of Frank Loesser’s “Never Will I Marry;” gorgeous pastels worthy of Ravel and Debussy on Rodgers & Hart’s “Spring is Here;” and the solid swing groove of “Lullaby of the Leaves.” No need for drums or string bass with these pianists.

As an encore they played Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” –a little after dinner drink, as Charlap put it.

–Paul Baker

Comments from audience members

Two pianos perfect in every way. Bill and Renee were excellent. I sat up front and could see Renee’s fingers otherwise I could not tell who played what NOTE on what PIANO!

What a truly magical performance with Bill and Renee! So sensitive and creative. Our first time here, but we will be back!

We will always cherish our memory of this afternoon. Thank you for this beautiful afternoon.

Thank you for a delightful afternoon. The performance was charming, the artists outstanding. Loved the Dick Hyman piece “Baby Boom.”

Thank you so much for a lovely show today. I really enjoyed it, especially “My Funny Valentine.”

Dear Farleys, thank you for bringing Bill and Renee to your studio. Live music really connects.

Loved the interplay between Bill and Renee–as if they were speaking through the music. Music selections were fabulous! Thank you.

Truly amazing concert! Two consummate artists totally in synch. Trading phrases seamlessly. Two superb pianos!

Bill Charlap dancing at the piano…

I love the energy the artists brought to the session. Piano Jazz is one of my favorites to listen to, and today I could have died happily while listening to Bill and Renee.

My only regret is that I have not heard about these concerts before. Wow! We’ll be back for classical and jazz. –Bob and Joanna Chaney, Chicago IL

Beautiful sounding pianos, nice atmosphere, and acoustics. Great artists Bill and Renee. I like the open position without the top. Will be back.

Bill and Renee’s concert was fantastic. It made me laugh and cry with the beautiful chords, expressions and joy. The pianos here are simply gorgeous. I look forward to more concerts.
–Lynn Bakiares