Distinguished pianists and composers with individual styles, Horvitz and Holcomb have been partners in life as well as musically for almost three decades. They have appeared on record in each other’s company numerous times, but this is their first recording actually sharing the billing. Together…and yet alone, as each plays solo piano. The instrument is a Steinway D, and the program they have sequenced includes original compositions (e.g. Holcomb’s 13-minute suite “When the Comet Comes”), three free improvisations, and three covers (including Wayne Shorter’s beautiful “Armageddon.”). Live-to-DSD recording in a small concert hall creates an intimate, palpable atmosphere.
Reduced to essentials, the differences as well as the similarities in their music stand out. They both possess notable techniques, but it’s the emotional resonances and luminosity of the playing that really stay with the listener. As Robin puts it: “We share a wide range of interests and influences. I entered the world of jazz very late in its history with the exuberant improvising of ‘free jazz’ whereas Wayne is much more familiar with earlier jazz forms. I have played more early American folk music and Indonesian music. We seem to both be mesmerized by the harmonic language of hymns, for no particular reason. We are both drawn to the bittersweet in both melody and harmony – I find that Wayne's pieces have more of a ‘yanking’ quality to them – a lovely melody will get ‘yanked’ into a deeply bittersweet moment which then shimmers throughout the music. I think that my pieces may be more melancholy overall.”
Wayne adds: “Without question we have very different sounds and techniques, our training and backgrounds are different, although at the time that we first met and also became involved in musical projects together we were both very influenced by Cecil Taylor (pianistically) and all the music coming out of the AACM and the BAG (Black Artists’ Group). Also Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea etc. were very much in the air. As improvisors both of us share a sort of two-handed approach à la Cecil. Also we were being introduced to the music of Messiaen and John Cage and many other contemporary composers and hearing the connections between all those musics. Unlike Robin, however, I also have a more single-note ‘linear’ approach that comes from playing jazz at various times in my life.”
In the event, Solos implies all these stylistic connections and more (e.g. the impressionism of Debussy or the pared-down elegance of Satie). But its varying moods flow together into a personal, shared artistic statement.
Born in Savannah and based in Seattle, Robin Holcomb has created a “new American regionalism, spun from many threads – rock, minimalism, Civil War songs, Appalachian folk tunes, even the polytonal music of Charles Ives” (NY Times). Her songs and instrumental compositions are showcased on CDs for Nonesuch and Sound Aspects and, as co-director of the New York Composers Orchestra, on New World. Recent works include O, Say a Sunset, a staged song cycle based on the life of Rachel Carson which toured the US in 2003/4, and The Utopia Project, a film-and-song cycle collaboration in development at Mass MoCA.
Born in New York, Wayne Horvitz is one of the more prolific and celebrated composers and keyboardists of the last twenty years. Leader of Zony Mash, Pigpen and the 4+1 Ensemble, and co-leader of the New York Composers Orchestra and Mylab, he has been a frequent collaborator of John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Butch Morris, and Bobby Previte, among many other practitioners of the new music that has roots in jazz and improvisation but is confined to neither. He also composes for film, TV, dance, theater and the concert hall. His latest work, Joe Hill: 16 Actions for Orchestra, Voice and Soloist, premieres at this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival. His CDs are on Songlines (Forever, 2000, Sweeter Than the Day, 2002), Knitting Factory, Intuition, Avant, Elektra/Musician, and other labels.