The pairing of piano and vibes in a duet format always has the potential to create beautiful music. Both instruments easily handle lead and rhythm roles while concurrently complementing the counterpart. Where the challenge lies in this paring is how well the two musicians are able to read and react to each other. This is where synergy becomes the crucial element. On Key Play, whether soloing or filling, Ed Saindon and Kenny Werner complement each other so well that at times it becomes difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Lines flow into lines, back and forth. Where one leaves off the other pick up, creating a seamless flow of music that floats along, carrying the listener with it.
On the program for this album, the duo plays a set of six standards interspersed with five Saindon originals. While the standards are played well, no real sparks fly. All the standards selected are medium tempo pieces that are treated to nice, lush arrangements that adhere closely to the original melody. Both players quickly set up the head, solos are traded, followed by interesting interplay where dual solos interweave tightly to create a dense back and forth framework. A highlight of the standards is the beautifully played Jitterbug Waltz. The chiming, ringing sound of the vibes sound as if they were made just for this tune, bringing out the gorgeous sound of the melody.
A pleasant interlude from the standards, Saindon’s writing has a contemporary feel that just slightly hints at romanticism. Of note, 18th’s Child feels like a light-hearted minuet with a timeless quality that keeps the song playing long after it finishes. Spur of the Moment is played at a rapid pace with both piano and vibes exchanging long lines that quickly chase each other, running circles that move rapidly to a delicate, lingering close.
For fans of the Gary Burton/Chick Corea duets or the Modern Jazz Quartet, this album should sound very familiar and be a welcome addition. The subdued sound of the vibes creates a soothing effect that is tempered by the contrasting piano. As the pace picks up, the sound still retains a peaceful, smooth feel to it making it a joy to listen to in any context.