By Hrayr Attarian
Firm Roots Duo Firm Roots
Lara Driscoll – Piano
Chris White – Piano
Lara Driscoll and Chris White’s intimate debut, Firm Roots, draws inspiration from the rich tradition of jazz piano. A mix of standards and originals, this is a thematically unified set that delights with its spontaneity and lyricism. This husband-and-wife team got the opportunity to record it live on high-end instruments in Grand Piano Haus’s showroom. The venue’s acoustics are well reflected in the warmth and clarity of the album’s sound.
Pianist Horace Silver’s classic “Song for My Father” gets a soulful interpretation as Driscoll and White overlap their embellished phrases with creativity and elegance. The two artists build a sophisticated improvisation with their complementary and contrasting lines that cascade off each other, interweave, and intersect.
These types of captivating textures are a hallmark of this imaginative performance. The pair’s “One Foot First,” for example, is made up of crystalline refrains that change and morph into dynamic and exciting patterns. The inventive harmonies over subtly percussive vamps, and the duo’s virtuosity, are reminiscent of the pianists of the early half of the last century.
Similarly, another one of the couple’s compositions, “Jalophony,’’ showcases the pianists’ technical prowess and brilliant artistry. The thrilling agility with which White and Driscoll let loose fast and fluid sonic cascades, peppered with bluesy tones, harks back to Harlem stride with a thrilling modern twist.
The title track is one of pianist Cedar Walton’s many ingenious standards. Here, it features a playful and effervescent dialogue. With shimmering exchanges, the two musicians deconstruct the piece with deference and charm. Their unique approach is simultaneously passionate and suave, once again demonstrating the distinctive synergy of their individual styles. The result is as much Walton’s tune as it is Driscoll and White’s.
With Firm Roots, the Chicago-based pianists have created a truly enchanting work that, in a way, pays tribute to the legacy of past innovators of the genre. Both their own contributions and their singular reading of several well-known gems bear the indelible marks of their talent and the allure of a shared musical vision. Driscoll and White’s mastery and finesse lend an appealing and accessible quality to their superb debut album.