Quiet Conversations - A Duet
The piano/voice duet is probably the most perilous form in all of music. It's so unadorned that a single flaw can stand out glaringly and the ambiance is so spare that both instruments—keyboard and larynx…must shimmer in order to make the atmosphere breathe. Any musician worth his or her salt has to quail when contemplating the medium, a cold sweat following soon after, a sense of doom hovering in the wings. Therefore, just the release of such an effort is an act of daring, but Joan Watson-Jones wasn't daunted for a minute, welcoming a challenge that brought her a sonic tabula rasa upon which to inscribe her artistry. Thank goodness, then, that she recruited a pianist with equal poise, Berklee alumnus and Hank Jones 'Jazz Master' award winner Frank Wilkins.
Though I was eager to dive into the take on Wild is the Wind, a song David Bowie dramatically captured long years ago, I was even more curious how Watson-Jones would tackle Van Morrison's Have I Told You Lately and thus surprised to hear a very Paul Williamsy cover taking the song down country lanes with faint touches of Doris Day. This made the eros of the following You Talk Too Much rather surprising, fresh-faced and bright but seductive nonetheless, Wilkins be-bopping behind and beside her. Thus the return of a slow quiet melancholy in the singer's arrangement of Wild is the Wind brought the entire affair back to the baseline wistful milieu that Quiet Conversations commenced with.
The most interesting selection is Watson-Jones' own Yes Dear, a modern-love ditty that will have both sexes grinning in wry understanding within a format straddling novelty and jazz adventurousness deftly handled (think of Ben Sidran, Mose Allison, and Michael Franks). And the tempering of Rod Stewart's Forever Young from an anthemic rocker to a folksy paean-wish of good fortune was the perfect choice as closer. Quiet, then, is just that, but it doesn't at all lack for vivacity. Watson-Jones finds many ways to wring subtle essences from the dominantly bluesy, laconic, restrained oeuvre, and Wilkins provides innumerable harmonies, side colorations, and contrasts, never blustery, never ham-fisted, always balanced.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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