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Kirk Lightsey & Harold Danko: Shorter by Two: The Music of Wayne Shorter Played on Two Pianos (Sunnyside)

Review of reissue of album from two pianists paying tribute to music of Wayne Shorter

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Cover of Kirk Lightsey & Harold Danko Shorter by Two album
Cover of Kirk Lightsey & Harold Danko Shorter by Two album

Even the conscientious jazz collector might have missed Shorter by Two upon its original 1984 release, performed as it was by Kirk Lightsey and Harold Danko, two of the most underrated pianists in jazz then and now. But 33 years later, Wayne Shorter having assumed elder statesmanship and acclaim as jazz’s greatest living composer, the music therein has greater prestige even as its players continue to get shortchanged.

Maybe Sunnyside’s remaster of Shorter by Two can help fix that. Shorter’s tunes are a powerful lure, but once taken in it’s hard to resist Lightsey and Danko’s playing on, for example, “Dance Cadaverous,” where Lightsey—probably; the pianists are centered in the mix—articulates the melody in charming twinkles against Danko’s lithe ballet-stepping comp in a Debussy-like harmony. Or “Pinocchio,” in which the pianists move together at a gregarious pace that, but for the intermittency of its basslines, could have been a stride-piano cutting contest. (“Marie Antoinette” is slower, but more stride-ish still.)

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