When two pianists play together onstage, it's the jazz world's equivalent of a summer day without smog in L.A.
Which makes "Fifty Fingers," the second concert in Ambassador Performing Arts' "Sounds of Genius" 1994-1995 jazz season, all the more enticing.
The event, taking place at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m., finds pianists Kenny Barron, Alan Broadbent, Dick Hyman, Roger Kellaway and Gerald Wiggins playing solos and duos. The duos are comprised of Barron and Broadbent, Barron and Wiggins, Wiggins and Hyman and Hyman and Kellaway.
Despite the rarity of the format, many pianists seek out these encounters. For instance, Kenny Barron has recorded with John Hicks, Hyman made an album with Kellaway, and Broadbent recorded with Bill Mays on an album led by altoist Bud Shank.
Broadbent talked about the feelings that come from teaming with another keyboardist.
"We get to be close musically, to literally be inside the other person," said the New Zealand native who now lives in Santa Monica. "It's like getting to know the person, and their music, that much better. It's all about communication, for me anyway. So if we can attain that kind of communication, playing with Kenny, whom I deeply respect, it will be joyful."
There are pitfalls to such pairings, Broadbent says, as when both artists play too many notes, creating the clashes musicians call train wrecks.
"So if Kenny is soloing, I'll be careful how I accompany, play something supportive rather than something that interferes," he says. "Otherwise, it gets too confused for me, and I'm always concerned about clarity."
"Fifty Fingers" is the second of six jazz concerts this season at Ambassador. The season opened with Stanley Turrentine on Oct. 6, and also includes the Kings of Swing (with Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco) and the Tonight Show All-Stars (with Tommy Newsom, Ed Shaughnessy, Conte Candoli and others) on Jan. 19; pianist Gene Harris' Quartet and All-Star Big Band on Feb. 11; vibist Milt Jackson and singer Ernestine Anderson on Feb. 25; and sax giant Sonny Rollins on May 4.
Tickets for "Fifty Fingers" range from $22.50 to $25.50; three-concert series tickets, which include Rollins, Harris and the pianists, are from $52 to $58.
Information: (800) 266-2378; (818) 304-6161.
More Barron: Before the Dec. 7 Ambassador concert, Barron will play an infrequent date as a sideman performing with saxophonist Mel Martin's quartet Dec. 2 and 3 at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City. The program, partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, will feature the music of Benny Carter and others.
Information: (310) 271-9039.
Another Pianist: "I hope Sara wins," pianist Jacky Terrasson said on Tuesday, unaware that Paris-based singer Sara Lazarus had won the Thelonious Monk International Vocal Competition, held Sunday and Monday in Washington. With Lazarus' victory, it's the second consecutive year that Paris-based artists have won the Monk competition. Terrasson, a native of Berlin who was raised in Paris, won in 1993.
And while it's too soon to tell what will happen to Lazarus' career as a result of her winning, Terrasson's victory in 1993 set off a bidding war, which resulted in him getting what he terms a "great deal" with Blue Note Records. The pianist's self-titled debut, which finds him playing with his trio--bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Leon Parker--will be out in January.
Unlike some previous Monk winners--most notably Joshua Redman--Terrasson was not an unknown before his victory. He had played with drummer Art Taylor's Taylor's Wailers, and the day after his victory, he embarked on an eight-month stint with singer Betty Carter, which included a stop at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood. Still, he acknowledges the push his career got from the Monk win.
"It's like a springboard. It projects you out into the public eye," he says from his current home in New York. "But I try not to rely on the victory. It doesn't show how great or bad I am."
The pianist isn't working a lot right now--he's awaiting the album's release, which will be celebrated by a weeklong gig at the Village Vanguard in New York, followed by a number of club and festival dates in the U.S., Europe and Japan. "I'm going to be busy," he says."