SARA TOTH – EDITOR
Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes had been married for three years when they released their album Double Portrait — a collection of piano duets, featuring covers from the American songbook, lesser-known jazz pieces and one original composition from Rosnes herself: “The Saros Cycle.”
“The melody has a very cyclical feel to it, almost an expansive sound,” Rosnes told NPR’s “Weekend Edition” when the album was released in 2010. “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.”
The piece was written for two pianos — the entirety of Double Portrait is for duo pianos — fitting for two of the most acclaimed jazz pianists in the industry. And it’s a song, Charlap told NPR, that he loves playing with Rosnes.
“It’s so connected in terms of the melody and the harmony,” he said. “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.”
Fresh from his Sunday afternoon Amphitheater performance with the Bill Charlap Trio, Charlap will again take the stage, this time with Rosnes, at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17 in the Amp for an evening of songs from Double Portrait.
Rosnes, who hails from Vancouver, has recorded 14 albums and has been the pianist of choice for artists like Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, J.J. Johnson and Bobby Hutcherson. She’s also a founding member of SFJAZZ Collection and an organizer of an all-female jazz band Artemis, who have played the Newport Jazz Festival and released a self-titled album in 2020.
The son of a musical New York City family, Grammy Award-winning pianist Charlap has performed with the likes of Phil Woods, Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, Wynton Marsalis, Freddy Cole and Houston Person.
The two have been playing together since the 1990s (and married since 2007), and in 2014, Charlap told Rebecca Walsh for The Salt Lake Tribune that “the chemistry was there right away.”
“It’s mutual respect,” he said. “But then you have the added intimacy of how much you care about each other. It’s a nice (musical) conversation.”
In their New Jersey home, the couple practices on two Steinway pianos — they usually spend more time playing solo, Rosnes told “Weekend Edition,” but they don’t mind since it actually helps the spontaneous improvisation of live jazz performances.
“He inspires me,” she told NPR. “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.”