Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes Duet In 'Double Portrait' The pianists were already powerhouse jazz musicians when they married three years ago at The Jazz Club at Lincoln Center in New York. Now, they've released a new album of piano duets. Double Portrait revisits classics from the American songbook, Brazilian music and jazz standards.
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Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes Duet In 'Double Portrait'

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Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes Duet In 'Double Portrait'

Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes Duet In 'Double Portrait'

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Jazz artists Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap were already powerhouse pianists when they were married at The Jazz Club in Lincoln Center in New York in 2007. Now, the couple have a pair of Steinways in their living room and a new album of duets titled "Double Portrait."

(Soundbite of piano music)

CORNISH Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, welcome to the show.

Ms. RENEE ROSNES (Jazz Pianist): Thanks. Great to be with you.

Mr. BILL CHARLAP (Jazz Pianist): Great to be here.

CORNISH: Now, I want to start with the end. I want to start with the song that your album ends with, which is "Never Will I Marry." Whose choice was this?

Ms. ROSNES: I think it was both of ours, actually. Just going through some repertoire, looking for music to record, this piece seemed to click for both of us. And we enjoy playing it and love the melody, and we also think that it's a tune that is underexposed. Even though its a well-known piece, I dont think its been recorded in the last little while, so it was nice to be able to include it.

(Soundbite of song, "Never Will I Marry")

Mr. CHARLAP: Of course, the title is a little bit ironic, "Never Will I Marry," of course, we're married. But really, we love this song, as Renee said. Great Frank Loesser tune. Frank Loesser was the great theater writer, wrote "Guys and Dolls," "The Most Happy Fella," and a score called "Willow," which this song is from.

(Soundbite of song, "Never Will I Marry")

CORNISH: Renee, youve done a lot of composing over the years for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and in your own groups. And I want to talk to you about the "Saros Cycle," which is your composition on this record. What was the inspiration for that?

Ms. ROSNES: Well, I wrote the composition with the two pianos in mind and came to the title later on. The melody has a very cyclical feel to it and almost an expansive sound. And I was looking for a title that kind of reflected something in the cosmos and came across the Saros Cycle, which is the - refers to the cycle of eclipses, both with the sun and the moon, which is quite interesting to me. I'm a little bit of an astronomy buff and I was unaware of the Saros Cycle. So that's how we came to it.

Mr. CHARLAP: I love playing this composition because it's so connected in terms of the melody and the harmony. Theyre 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 during the improvising section. It's really a true conversation musically.

CORNISH: And this is the "Saros Cycle" on your album, "Double Portrait."

(Soundbite of song, "Saros Cycle")

CORNISH: We're speaking with pianists and married couple Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap

(Soundbite of piano music)

CORNISH: Now, Bill, you said something just now that I actually really responded to when I listened to the album, about the cohesiveness of the playing and how there are sometimes moments where I really can't tell if it is two pianos. It just seems so sort of integrated. And the song I was thinking of was "Ana Maria."

Mr. CHARLAP: That's a composition by Wayne Shorter, a true musical giant, really a genius as a player and very much so as a composer.

CORNISH: If its okay, we'll play a clip of that.

Ms. ROSNES: Sure.

(Soundbite of song, "Ana Maria")

CORNISH: I wanted to talk to you guys about how you think your relationship has, I guess, affected your playing. I mean, do you find that it's almost - is it a conscious decision or is it something that's sort of grown over the last few years?

Mr. CHARLAP: Well, as relationships grow, our music has also grown. But the initial chemistry that we feel for each other was also there the very first time that we played together, before we were involved with each other outside of just being colleagues.

In terms of the cohesiveness, we're always listening to each other. And I think when we're playing two pianos, what happens is, it's not me playing and Renee playing, but the two of us creating something where the whole is greater than its parts. It's almost like a new entity that is the sum of both of us playing.

(Soundbite of song from album, "Double Portrait")

Ms. ROSNES: There's a certain amount of intimacy, as well, which I think comes through in the music because we know each other so well. But, as Bill said, the chemistry was there at the very beginning and I actually kind of liken it to when you meet a new friend and you have an easy conversation and it just clicks and you feel like you know that person. Or you feel that, you know, there's warmth there. And I think that's what it was like for both Bill and I when we began to play together on the two pianos.

CORNISH: Now, listening to you two here, sort of finishing each other sentences a little bit, I'm wondering what it's like in your household, sort of managing a house with three kids. You have kids from another marriage. And two, I guess - are these pianos back to back in the living room? Or what is it like trying to rehearse and just to do the day-to-day of doing your work?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROSNES: Well, its challenging and it's about managing your time. And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: Yes. I worked at home with my husband once and we just had two laptops and it was still, you know, who gets to use the phone first?

Ms. ROSNES: Right. Well, our children are basically 11, 12 and 13. So they're quite energetic and need our attention, as children do. So the fact of the matter is that its very difficult, obviously, for us to practice when the kids are home. But we do find time when they're at school or camp to get to the pianos. And actually, both of us spend more time at the pianos alone than we do playing together, because both of us are working on music all the time for performing with our own groups, as well.

CORNISH: Are the kids jazz fans? I mean, do they kind of have to be? Or...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: ...are they gravitated towards it?

Mr. CHARLAP: Oh, they certainly dont have to be. But all the children are very musical and they love all kinds of music. I dont know if they necessarily separate it into different types of music and I think that's a great thing.

CORNISH: Last thing I want to ask is, what did you guys learn from each other in playing these duets?

Ms. COLSON: Well, I think I learn from Bill all the time, whether or not he's playing or speaking or we're hanging out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHARLAP: Likewise. Likewise.

Ms. ROSNES: I think I'm always learning and I always will be.

CORNISH: Thank you so much for letting me talk to you and for letting us pry a little bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHARLAP: Oh, thank you. It's so nice to talk to you.

CORNISH: We're going to go out on a song from the album. And I was actually wondering if you had a request.

Mr. CHARLAP: Well, how about "Dancing In The Dark."

Ms. ROSNES: That sounds good.

CORNISH: Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap, their first and latest album of duets is "Double Portrait."

(Soundbite of song, "Dancing In The Dark")

CORNISH: To hear full songs from "Double Portrait," visit And if youve got an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you can hear it on the new free NPR Music app.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

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