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Reviewed this week: Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, Stornoway, and Disquiet

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes
Double Portrait
(Blue Note)

Getting 20 fingers to work together is no easy task. However, the husband and wife team of Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes does a darn good job of making it work. Double Portrait is an album of piano duets, and when they take on Brazilian classics (a groove-less version of Jobim's "Double Rainbow") and standards (a tepid "Dancing in the Dark"), the result is enjoyable without being memorable.

However, their version of Rosnes' composition "The Saros Cycle" is a shifting, entrancing number, as the pair alternate varying tempos and swap ideas as if they were one. "Inner Urge" is fiery and athletic, with plenty of speedy runs from the players. They close the CD with the ironically titled "Never Will I Marry," showcasing their sense of timing and wit.  —Jeffrey Siegel

Stornoway
Beachcomber's Windowsill
(4AD)

Recently released in the U.S., the debut by "Brit-folk's new great hope" may have a tough time finding an audience on this side of the pond. While the whole album is lushly recorded, many tracks feel too cluttered to merit repeat listens. "Watching Birds" starts promisingly, with a pounding riff and drum beat. However the song soon falters with the addition of organ, kazoo and one too many shifts in melody. Elsewhere, layers of choral harmonies and horns sometimes bring feelings of expansiveness to the cuts they grace. The first single, "Zorbing," named for the pursuit of rolling down hills in human-sized hamster balls, features lots of sounds, to thrilling effect. Yet too often a less-is-more approach would probably have been a better choice. Lead vocalist Brian Briggs possesses a knack for hearing music where others may not. —Michael Cimaomo

Disquiet
April Distance
(Sliver)

Oddly enough, Disquiet is a band at its best when it's quiet. At the beginning of the CD, and in a number of later interludes and "reveries," the band discards its penchant for pop-rock of the radio-ready, heavily saturated and triumphant variety and embraces a love for soundscapes and subtle ambience. It's not that their soaring pop moments aren't big-hearted, it's simply that it is in those moments that Disquiet plays by the usual rock rules, piling big chords and delay-drenched guitars up underneath slower-moving vocals, the whole propelled by the expected bass-snare underpinning. When things get weirder, Disquiet seems like a different band, creating hair-raising textures with odd sounds and heavily affected vocals. That Disquiet may well portend some truly intriguing things down the line. In the meantime, this is a solidly played and highly polished debut. Stay tuned.  —James Heflin

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