Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap were already powerhouse pianists when they were married three years ago in The Jazz Club at Lincoln Center in New York. Now, the couple has released a new album of duets titled Double Portrait.
The record draws from the American songbook, as well as some less covered jazz standards, including pieces by Wayne Shorter, Gerry Mulligan and Joe Henderson. Also included is "Double Rainbow" by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.
"There's something about the lyricism, romanticism and beautiful rhythmic energy of Brazilian music that really speaks to us," Charlap says.
Charlap comes from a musical family. His mother was a cabaret singer who still performs today, and his late father, Moose Charlap, wrote songs for musicals, working with peers such as the great Frank Loesser and writing some classics of his own, including Peter Pan on Broadway. Charlap brings his love of American popular music to Double Portrait.
The last track on the album is a Frank Loesser song called "Never Will I Marry." Rosnes says the piece seemed to click for both of them. Her husband agrees.
"Of course, the title is a little bit ironic," Charlap says. "[O]f course, we're married, and that piece of humor didn't get past us, but really we love this song."
A Couple's Chemistry
Rosnes' original composition, called "The Saros Cycle," also appears on Double Portrait. She says she wrote it with two pianos in mind, and that the title, inspired by her passion for astronomy, came to her later.
"The melody has a very cyclical feel to it, almost an expansive sound," she says. "I was looking for a title that reflected something in the cosmos and came across the Saros Cycle, which refers to the cycle of eclipses."
Charlap says he loves playing the song with his wife.
"It's so connected in terms of the melody and the harmony," he says. "They're so welded together, and there's such an organic feel to it. It feels so expansive, and when we play on this together, we really improvise at the same time."
Charlap says the initial chemistry from when they first started collaborating is still there.
"When we're playing two pianos ... it's not me playing and Renee playing, but the two of us creating something where the whole is greater than its parts," he says. "It's almost like a new entity that is the sum of both of us playing."
At home, husband and wife juggle three energetic children and try to squeeze in time together at their two Steinway pianos. Rosnes says they end up spending more time playing solo, but that they don't mind because it helps preserve the spontaneity of their live performances.
"He inspires me," she says. "So when we play together, I automatically have a sense of inspiration, which is great, because it helps make the music jell and have spontaneity and feel good. I think I'm always learning, and always will be."