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Hilary Kole: You Are There

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Motivated by a fortuitous encounter with Oscar Peterson, Hilary Kole set herself a momentous goal: to record an album’s worth of duets with 11 of the finest jazz pianists on the planet. She succeeded in persuading Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones, Michel Legrand, Benny Green, Alan Broadbent and a half-dozen other luminaries to participate. But, as the album so consistently, elegantly demonstrates, the respect was entirely mutual. All 11 gentlemen, secure enough in their depth and breadth of their abilities, ensure that the spotlight remains squarely focused on Kole. She responds with towering renditions of 13 standards, each an interpretive bull’s-eye.

Though she has Streisand’s power and range, her emotional shadings are masterfully subtle, each dollop of sunshine or passing shadow eloquently realized. Her esteemed partners counter with exquisite subtleties of their own. There is, for instance, the brief but incisive moment of discordant tumult with which Legrand opens “How Can You Keep the Music Playing?,” brilliantly anticipating the confused heartache that follows. Then there’s the tiptoed regret with which Brubeck gently propels “These Foolish Things” and the meteorological sweep, extending from light summer breezes to icy sleet, that Mike Renzi uses to frame the rueful claustrophobia of “I Remember.”

Similarly inspired splashes of understated genius enhance each pairing. Only once is an additional instrument present. It is Freddy Cole’s voice, intertwined with Kole’s on “It’s Always You,” unfurling like a carpet of fallen leaves beneath a starry autumn sky.

Originally Published