Thursday, February 28, 2013

Piano jazz x 2

Mac Chrupcala and Mike Renzi have been crossing paths longer than each cares to count.
Mike Renzi

They began working jazz clubs in the 1960s in Providence, RI - occasionally swapping favorite venue gigs. Chrupcala also spent most of his adult career teaching music in the Newport School System, while Renzi went on to great acclaim in New York City as musical director for "All My Children" and "Sesame Street" - and accompanist to a trove of great singers, including Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Jack Jones.

Mac Chrupcala
Both men now winter in Florida. They crossed paths again this afternoon at the Venice FL Art Center in a two-keyboard concert, with strong support from bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Dave Pruyn. It was fascinating to hear these two longtime friends trading back and forth between acoustic and electric piano, as well as taking turns with ease in leading and comping on a wide range of material. Both pianists are powerhouse players.

Neuenschwander, Renzi, Chrupcala
First set highlights included a six-tune Duke Ellington medley and two tunes on which Pruyn traded drumsticks for microphone to sing Renzi arrangements of two Torme concert staples: "Pick Yourself Up" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Chrupcala added subtle strings (via the keyboard) behind Renzi's piano for the latter. Second half highlights included their takes on "Meditation" and "Teach Me Tonight." Singer Shelly Torman sat in on another Ellington gem: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing.)"

More than 100 jazz fans turned out for the jazz club's first two-piano concert.

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