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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul

Savant SCD 2104



1. I'll Remember April
2. All the Things You Are
3. Two Bass Hit
4. Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing
5. It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing
6. Prayer
7. Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul

Eric Reed, Cyrus Chestnut - Pianos
Dezron Douglas - Bass
Willie Jones III - Drums


Pianists Eric Reed and Cyrus Chestnut have several things in common. They were both formed by experience in gospel music as children and they have both played for Wynton Marsalis, since when they have made names for themselves leading their own groups. The most important thing is that both pianists can swing like crazy and improvise with imagination.

The ability to swing is conspicuous in the opening track, a 14-minute excursion on I'll Remember April. You can hear how one phrase leads them into various quotations, and the tune climaxes with the two pianists swapping shorter and shorter segments. Bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Willie Jones III keep the pot boiling. The album was recorded over three nights at Dizzy's, a club overlooking Central Park in New York, and the live atmosphere is tangible.

A striking contrast is provided by the second track - a remarkably slow version of All the Things You Are. The listener is supposed to be able to identify the pianists from the stereo layout: Reed on the left, Chestnut on the right, but my stereo doesn't separate them clearly enough for them to be distinguishable. However, they both have economical styles which are well illustrated on this second track, where they leave lots of space between the phrases.

Two Bass Hit is a fast swinger, and it's another 14-minute hothouse, full of grooving riffs and friendly competition as the two pianists trade groups of bars. Cyrus Chestnut plays alone on the contemplative Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, which takes him back to his gospel roots. The quartet reassembles for It Don't Mean a Thing: a tune which sometimes proves its point by lacking the necessary drive, but this performance has plenty of forward thrust.

Eric Reed plays his own composition Prayer as a solo: again reviving memories of old spirituals. And the session ends with the well-named title-track, which has an explicit down-home feel, drenched in the blues - although there is more soul than swing in this joint composition of Reed and Chestnut.

Piano duets don't always work, as pianists can get in one another's way or respond inappropriately to each other's initiatives, but this one works just fine.

Tony Augarde

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