I first became aware of Richie Beirach back in the seventies through his work on ECM Records, especially his solo piano album "Hubris," which is just as captivating today as it was almost 40 years ago. He's had quite an impressive catalog of recordings since that time, as is evidenced with this new collaboration with Laurie Antonioli. Although I've heard of Laurie, and no doubt heard some of her music over the years, I've never had one of her several albums to listen too. That is too bad, because she is a fantastic vocalist with a rich alto voice. She got a good break just out of college from the recently deceased singer Mark Murphy in San Francisco when he invited her to sit in with him and gave her plenty of room to perform. Then she went on to an 8-month stint with Pony Poindexter.
On this album of mostly duets with Beirach, the two display an empathy that comes from knowing each other musically for many years. In fact, six of the 13 songs were recorded in 2006 in Germany, and the remaining seven were recorded in 2012 in Berkeley, CA. Then some additional recording was done in 2015. The opening title track, the first of six originals from Laurie & Richie, sets the mood for what you will hear throughout most of the program here - Laurie's beautiful vocals backed by Beirach's sparse yet majestic acoustic piano. Beirach & Antonioli certainly know the beauty of space in music, where what is not played is as important as what is. You'll hear it often on this disc.
The mood continues into a ballad for a lost dear one, so sweetly titled "You're An Angel Now," written by Laurie and John Patitucci. "Summer Night" is the first of six nicely done fresh takes on standards, with the others including "Gentle Rain," "Haunted Heart," "Over The Rainbow," and "My Funny Valentine," which is the second part of a medley with Russian Composer Alexander Scriabin's "Prelude in E-Flat Minor" - for which the two play the melody in unison, Laurie with wordless vocalizing, then she sings the words as it segues into "Valentine."
The pair wrote three improvised songs totaling about 6-1/2 minutes for the middle of the album titled "Resolution Suite," on which she vocalizes sans words as they compose on the spot. For these three songs, and "Gentle Rain," they are joined by bassist Pepe Berns. Two more originals follow the Suite - "My Love" and "Inside My Dreams." Both have words and both are ballads. Just before the album closes with "Over The Rainbow," we are treated to the most energetic song of the set as they take on John Coltrane's "Impressions," as Laurie ads wordless vocals to Beirach's most forceful piano work of the program, showing us all another side of Riche Beirach.
In closing, let me just say that this is a wonderful album by two brilliant musicians. While I did not think I would enjoy a vocal/piano duet, these two certainly proved me wrong. Amazon lets you sample all 13
songs, so if your interest is piqued by all means check it out.