How odd is it for a singer who doesn’t play to choose Piano, Piano as an album title? Not odd at all when you consider that the hook here is the teaming of Ducros, that blonde bombshell of a French vocalist who is equal parts Blossom Dearie and Annie Ross plush a dash of Yma Sumac’s exoticism, with four of the jazz world’s most accomplished pianists: Chick Corea, Jacky Terrasson, Enrico Pieranunzi and René Urtreger.
None of Ducros’ esteemed guests are onboard for the album’s opener. Instead, it is her regular quintet-led by pianist Benoît de Mesmay-that joins her for a disappointingly cacophonous treatment of Miles Davis’ “Four” that finds both Ducros and de Mesmay drowning in bassist Sal la Rocca’s overzealous arrangement.
Immediately after, the skies clear, the mood mellows and Ducros gets down to some seriously beautiful collaborating. Corea, providing sole support on three tracks, helps Ducros lift the timeworn standards “My Foolish Heart” and “Les Feuilles Mortes” to new heights. Neither, though, can approach the soaring brilliance of their unhinged “Body and Soul,” clawing with desperate desire. Pieranunzi drops by only briefly for a soft, lovely “You Go to My Head,” and Urtreger is on hand for equally subdued readings of “I Thought About You” and “Just in Time.”
But the real revelation here is Terrasson. Ducros’ dexterous countryman proves a model of understated inspiration on a stripped-bare “Never Let Me Go” and a marvelously intriguing “God Bless the Child” that imbues the lyric with a surprisingly appropriate optimism.