Paolo & Stephanie Return

Aldo-Stephanie

BROADWAY AND MORE / BERLIN: Call Me Madam Medley. Marie. KERN-HAMMERSTEIN: Make Believe. GAY-FURBER: The Lambeth Walk. Medley: DeCURTIS: Torna a Sorrento/D’ESPOSITO-MANLIO: Anema e core. MALNECK-MERCER: If I Had a Million Dollars. HOFFMAN-KLENNER: Heartaches. WILLSON: The Music Man Medley. ADAMSON-McCAREY-WARREN: An Affair to Remember. BERNSTEIN-SONDHEIM: West Side Story Medley. McCARTNEY-LENNON: Penny Lane. BALLARD: Mr. Sandman / Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, pn / Alderighi-Trick Records ATC0005

Here’s another crop of classic pop tunes rearranged and redefined by the world’s best and most famous piano-four-hands duo, but in this album they’re playing on two pianos instead of one. This gives them both the chance to stretch out at their respective keyboards rather than crowding each other for room on just one. On this recording, Stephanie Trick is playing on the left channel while her husband, Paolo Alderighi, is playing on the right.

As usual with this duo, older musical fare reimagined is the order of the day, but in this case the program also includes some Italian songs (including the old Italian tenor favorite, Torna a Sorrento), a medley from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, and the Beatles’ Penny Lane. We start out with the very gaga-type music from Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam, which opens up with It’s a Lovely Day Today. This medley seems to be played rather straight, with only a bit of variation in their playing despite a bit of Fats Waller-like stride emanating from the keyboards halfway through, but they put their jazz shoes on for You’re Just in Love and really crank it up.

Better yet is their treatment of the old Tommy Dorsey hit Marie, complete with the seldom-heard verse that leads into the main tune. Then things really change, with a surprisingly bluesy chorus that really cooks, followed by a doubling of tempo and a rapid shuffle beat to chug things along. This is followed, in turn, by Paolo cutting loose with some nifty right-hand playing while Stephanie feeds him some nice chords from her side. This one really takes off! Jerome Kern’s Make Believe from Show Boat begins wistfully, almost like a slightly out-of-tempo ballad, going to waltz tempo for an almost classical treatment of the melody. A nifty key change moves the duo into a medium-uptempo where, after another restatement of the melody, they completely rewrite the song in their duo-improvisation. A hint of boogie bass then ensues and they continue their exploration of the song, eventually leading back to the principal tune for a somewhat dramatic, key-changing finale.

Furber’s Lambeth Walk is taken a bit out of “walk” tempo and given some nifty rhythmic changes, including a Latin chorus in the minor. This is followed by the pair playing off each other, filling in notes that the other seemed to have missed. More rhythmic shifts tell you that this is a duo that doesn’t need a rhythm section (although it would be nifty to hear them play like this with a drummer). I wasn’t sure what they could have done with de Curtis’ Torna a Sorrento except to play it straight, which they do for the first 1:55. Then they alter the beat slightly and move into d’Esposito’s Manlia a core, another lovely tune but clearly not a jazz piece. This, however, lends itself to some nice improvisation in the second chorus. By and large, however, the mood here is one of nostalgia and delicacy, though in the last chorus Paolo plays some more nice variations.

Matty Malneck’s If I Had a Million Dollars was a Depression-era hit for the sadly short-careered Boswell Sisters, who sang it in the 1934 film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round. It gets an almost classic Fats Waller-like treatment, and why not? Stephanie is practically Waller reincarnated. More of a surprise to me was Heartaches, the old Ted Weems hit, originally taken at a Latin beat with Elmo Tanner whistling a chorus. They begin the song wistfully, at a relaxed tempo, as if they were going to give it another ballad treatment, but have no fear. They soon enough move it into its original tempo, albeit with running double-time eighth notes in the bass, before really swinging it hard. They obviously gave this one a great deal of thought as to how they were going to do it, then opened up the improv doors and enjoyed themselves.

I found it interesting that they chose to do a medley of tunes from Meredith Willson’s Music Man, not because I don’t like the show (I do…it’s one of only four musicals I really do like) but because the songs are geared more towards a straight reading. But just listening to the way they open up with a nicely lilting Leider Rose, My Home Again Rose makes you smile, following which they rewrite the tune in a jazz manner before giving us a bit of ‘Til There Was You and 76 Trombones. Then comes the fun—double-time stride style to juice up the proceedings, with Paolo really cooking on his piano.

An Affair to Remember is one of those songs that one recalls with pleasure without ever hearing it played by jazz musicians. It’s a lovely ballad, and in the second chorus they relax the rhythm and play some really lovely variants. Our third Broadway show medley comes from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, surely one of the most famous scores heard on the Great White Way. Tonight leads it off, followed by I Feel Pretty, this time with a nifty jazz chorus, then A Place For Us (played straight) and finally America (I thought they’d never get there!) played with some nice variations.

Another surprise to me was Penny Lane, played here with a relaxed tempo and smoldering feeling before moving into a quasi-Latin beat and some permutations on the original. A bit of counterpoint and a driving rhythm move us into the latter part of the performance, which includes some really funky jazz as a surprise before the sudden ending.

The CD concludes with the Chordettes’ old hit (I think their only one), Mr. Sandman, which I loved as a little girl. Surprisingly, this is the vehicle for some of their most imaginative rewriting, including a shift to the minor and bits of Latin rhythm as they proceed to do it up pink, including one section that sounds like a bitonal music box. They ride it out strongly, however, reminding us that they really enjoy playing jazz. A fine finish to an album mixing jazz, Broadway and nostalgia!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz

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