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

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1. All Things
2. Autumn Walk
3. The Longest Night
4. Cheers
5. Lucky Corner
6. Standchen, Op 135
7. London 5.30
8. Sweet Georgia Brown
9. La Polka du Roi
10. Maple Leaf Rag
11. Picasso Blues
12. Lover Man

Jan Lundgren and Bengt Hallberg (pianos)
rec. May and August 2011, Swedish Radio, Stockholm [50:30]


There have been a number of elite two- piano recordings over the years and you can nominate your own favourites, but the current crème de la crème must surely include this Swedish pairing. Hallberg is very much the senior partner of Swedish jazz - born in 1932, who recorded inter alia with Stan Getz, Clifford Brown and Red Mitchell - and Jan Lundgren (born 1966) is the rising mid-generation star of the local and international scene who has recorded with Conte Candoli and Johnny Griffin amongst many. Together they have produced an album that purrs with mutual admiration, stylistic panache, and lyrical warmth.

The rich contrapuntal interplay is a joy throughout and not least in All Things with its witty Mozartian sign-off ending. Autumn Walk exemplifies the generous warmth of both tunes (Hallberg's) and interpretation, whilst The Longest Night is a gently evocative piece with a truly lovely melody line. The two men vary stylistic parameters, to include a modicum of Ragtime and Stride in Cheers, evoking, perhaps, the shade of such as James P Johnson and Eubie Blake. Then again they move straight into insouciant swing via Lucky Corner with its, to my ears, vestiges of Erroll Garner in its secondary section.

The two men take Schubert's Ständchen on a bluesy harmonic adventure with vamps, trills and substituted chords aplenty, but reserve more earthy blues licks for the succeeding London 5:30 which also doubles as a swinger. There's plenty of humour in Sweet Georgia Brown and interesting repertoire in the form of Charles Trenet's La Polka du Roi which, rather cleverly, comes on like a Monty Alexander cum High Life rolling workout. Hallberg takes the bass and Lundgren improvises on the treble line in Maple Leaf Rag which is taken, as Joplin requested, at a moderate tempo. There's a late night blues bar feel, slow and bourbon-rich, in Picasso Blues, but the old Cubist seems to have been working his magic as the key changes are spiced wickedly now and again. Finally, to end, there's a rather melancholic ballad treatment of Lover Man.

So, this has all you want and need from a two-piano disc; stylistic variety, new tunes (three by Hallberg, two by Lundgren and two co-composed), mastery of blues and swing idioms, a lovely natural recording quality, and excellent and extensive dual language (Swedish/English) notes. This is a quality disc from top to tail.

Jonathan Woolf

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