These are just some of the words that can be used to describe the mellifluous meeting of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans on their storied duo recordings from the 1970's. Few modern musicians have dared to tackle the venerable songbook that these Jazz giants made their own. That is until now.
With the release of Convergence, vocalist Allan Harris and pianist Takana Miyamoto forge a symbiotic sonic bond, saluting the spirit of Bennett and Evans, while coining their own musical vocabulary as well. It's an aural affair not to be missed.
"I remember hearing The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album back around 1979," Harris says. "It still knocks me out. I think that album should be required listening for anyone who wants to step into the arena as a vocalist. It truly is a textbook study on how to deliver a lyric."
"The combination of the two of them together is incredible," Miyamoto adds. "Everything about that album is beautiful - from Tony's voice, to the intros Bill played, to how the songs modulate into different keys. That album definitely gave me a great foundation for the work I do now with all kinds of vocalists."
On Convergence, Harris and Miyamoto channel the same sense of aural adventure found on Bennett and Evans' renegade recordings. Striking a delicate stance between deference and discovery, the duo tackles classic cuts like "Waltz For Debby," "Young and Foolish," and "The Touch of Your Lips." And much like the chance meeting that united Harris and Miyamoto in the first place, the album is a celebration of musical possibility.
"I was performing with a Bill Evans tribute trio," Miyamoto recalls. "My agent knew Allan and thought there might be musical chemistry between us. So we played a last-minute gig together at Churchill Grounds in Atlanta, and we ended up recording it. When we heard the tapes, we knew immediately that we had something special. But both of us being busy with other projects, we left the tapes for another time."
"I knew of Takana from her work with singers like Nnenna Freelon and Rene Marie," Harris says. "But from the very first time we played together, she did more than just play. She guided me, taking me to places I never expected to go musically. On this project, she doesn't just play like Bill Evans. She has her own style, and just like Bill did with Tony, she strikes a balance between supporting me as singer, and pushing me into places she wants me to go. She's much more than just an accompanist - she's a pathfinder."
Harris and Miyamoto would revisit the recordings from their Atlanta concert years later, eventually opting to re-record the songs properly in a New York studio for release. "I happened to come across the tapes one day, so I listened to them again," Miyamoto says. "Not only did they sound great, but the crowd really responded to the material. So I called Allan and he said 'Let's release the tapes!' But as we started getting deeper into the project, we both thought we could better serve the material by recording it again."
"I thought the tapes sounded great, " Harris says, "but I thought we should go into the studio and record the songs again. To be honest, we were both scared that we'd lose the magic we found on those live recordings. But I told Takana to trust me. We recorded the whole album in six hours, without any editing or overdubs whatsoever."
New York native Allan Harris has been a longtime fixture on the international music scene, with a seemingly non-stop string of acclaimed concert appearances and recordings. A singer, songwriter and guitarist of great musical gifts and stylistic flexibility, Harris effortlessly blends Jazz, Blues, and Broadway standards with elegance and ease.
Takana Miyamoto was born in Yuki, Japan, leaving at the age of nineteen to study at Boston's famed Berklee College of Music. "Funny enough, I had no idea Berklee was such a big Jazz school," Miyamoto says. "I went there to study film scoring and really knew no Jazz tunes before I got there. But soon after I arrived, I started liking it, and within a short time, I was gigging." Miyamoto would also garner acclaim for her musical compositions for film, theater and dance.
On Convergence, Harris and Miyamoto do far more than simply pay tribute to Bennett and Evans. They chart their own captivating course through some of the duo's most signature songs, with Miyamoto's crystalline piano touch playing the perfect foil to Harris' buoyant baritone. Rarely has a piano/vocal duo sounded this confident and complete. From Miyamoto's tender piano work on classics like "My Foolish Heart" and "Waltz For Debby," to Harris' glowing, unaccompanied intro on the "The Touch of Your Lips," the pair brim from album start to finish with guts, gumption and grace.
"We found a beautiful balance on Convergence," Harris says. "I brought the whole Americana component to the plate - of African American Blues, Jazz, Soul and the American Songbook. And Takana brought an Eastern sense of patience and perspective to the music. She showed me how to take my time."
Allan Harris / vocals
Takana Miyamoto / piano
1. My Foolish Heart (Victor Young, Ned Washington) - 5:13
2. Days of Wine and Roses (Johnny Mandel) - 3:26
3. But Beautiful (Johnny Burke, James Van Heusen) - 4:00
4. Waltz for Debby (Gene Lees, Bill Evans) - 4:00
5. You Don't Know What Love Is (Don Raye, Gene De Paul) - 4:53
6. Young and Foolish (Arnold Horwitt, Alberg Hague) - 4:22
7. The Touch of Your Lips (Ray Noble) - 3:57
8. You Must Believe in Spring (M.Bergman, A. Bergman) - 4:41
9. Some Other Time (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) - 5:27
10. We'll Be Together Again (Frankie Laine, Carl Fischer) - 4:37