It's not often you get to hear Blues pianists play solo. As for Blues piano duets, well, they occur once in a blue moon. There must be a blue moon then, because Michael Parrish has persuaded Willie "Pinetop" Perkins that they should record an album of Blues piano duets following in the footsteps of Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. "One Heart" is the end result, a collection of 12 instrumentals recorded live in a piano rental warehouse in New York City, and very fine it is too.
Perkins needs no introduction; Parrish, on the other hand, is not so well known. Hailing from the Bay Area, Parrish is a relative novice compared to Perkins, although he is establishing a reputation as an accomplished artist. He contributed to recent Music Maker releases by Guitar Gabriel and Cootie Stark, and has also worked with the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy, and Taj Mahal.
From the opening bars of "CC Blues" you get a sense that "One Heart" is something special. Perkins and Parrish are in step from the word go, and never break off until the end of the closing "Blues Again." There's an easygoing relaxed feel to the proceedings which allows you to settle down in your seat, kick back and enjoy. The style ranges across boogie woogie, Blues and jive, with four of the tunes on offer being covers. Only three covers are listed, however, because "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" is credited to Pinetop Perkins rather than Clarence "Pinetop" Smith.
"Spacey Blues" just pips the pounding "Two Finger Boogie" for best track on the album. It illustrates the power that can be provided by Blues piano, even on the simplest of refrains, whilst contrasting it with the beauty of more complex trills and runs. There's a sense of improvisation about the tune too, without things ever wandering off into the realms of jazz.
If you listen carefully you can hear Perkins singing along on the excellent interpretation of Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too", before we get the almost obligatory rendition of "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie." This is followed by "Blues For Gabriel", obviously a tribute to the late Guitar Gabriel. It has something of the rolling gait of "Rock Me Baby" about it. One last boogie woogie, and then "Blues Again" rounds things off beautifully.
"One Heart" shows what a thing of great beauty Blues piano can be in the right hands (sic). The similarity in styles between Perkins and Parrish certainly helps, and the results are enhanced by the obvious chemistry that exists between the two of them. "One Heart" is essential listening that should be a part of every serious Blues lover's CD collection.
(Note: Although the cover shot shows Perkins and Parrish seated at upright Yamaha pianos, the recording was made using Steinway Concert grand pianos. The explanation is simple: they tried out several pianos in the warehouse, and photos were taken throughout. The cover shot was selected as the favorite picture.)
Geographic Records: www.geographicrecords.com
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.