The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree
The Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo
2002 / Innova Recordings
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree is a fresh and exciting first recording from The Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo, a father and son partnership that really cooks! Both Mark (son) and Bob (dad, obviously!) are pianist/composers with extensive backgrounds in classical music who turned to jazz later on. Mark is an assistant professor of composition and theory at Stanford University and is also deeply involved in experimental music. Compositions include “Concerto #1 for Florist and Percussion” and “That Brainwave Chick” with neural artist Para Kaul. He has also built electro-acoustic instruments out of junk, hardware, and found objects for compositional and improvisational tools. “Mousetrap Music” is a CD of sound-sculpture improvisations played on these inventions. Bob Applebaum was a high school chemistry and physics teacher until his recent retirement, and has played the piano professionally since 1957. The two started playing together fairly recently, and were astonished at how easy it was to play together. On the recording, Mark plays a Bosendorfer, which is heard on the left channel, and Bob plays a Steinway on the right. With some CD players (like in the car), the division isn’t as clear, so it is difficult to discern who is playing what - not a bad thing at all since the two are so in synch that it sounds like it could be one glorious pianist. On a sound system where it’s easier to focus on each channel, it’s fascinating to hear the seamless interaction and individual playing styles. No one dominates and each artist has plenty of room to stretch out and play, taking turns in the foreground and background. Most of this album is improvised, but it never falls into the muddy mess it could become with two dynamic pianists playing their hearts out. Some of the twelve pieces are arrangements of familiar pieces (Mark says he has “a preoccupation with making the familiar alien.”) and four are Mark’s originals. “Caravan” is perhaps the strangest of the arrangements, but it works! Bill Evans’ “Funkallero” is full of fun and humor, and actually evolves into Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C#m” and the third movement of Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathetique” without missing a beat! I love some of Mark’s song titles: “Tornado Food” was suggested by a friend’s using this term to reference mobile homes! A great title, and a great piece. “Titled,” another original, is much more experimental, and is something of a fragmented musical dialogue.
I hope to hear more from The Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo soon! This is an essential CD for fans of jazz piano and anyone who appreciates the complexities of two amazing pianists playing together. Recommended! It is available from innova.mu, bn.com, and amazon.com.
June 26, 2006