Two titans of jazz piano are captured in flight on the new Resonance Records album, Tommy Flanagan/Jaki Byard: The Magic of 2. Scheduled for April 9 release as a CD with 24-page booklet, a digital download with digital booklet, and a deluxe limited edition 2-LP set, The Magic of 2 presents a 1980 concert recorded at San Francisco’s celebrated Keystone Korner and the second entry in Resonance’s Keystone Discoveries series.
“It’s a revelation, how well they played together,” says Keystone’s owner Todd Barkan, who co-produced the CD with Resonance Records’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Zev Feldman. “They had quite disparate styles, but they share such an incredibly large vocabulary and frame of reference that it makes their language coherent. They’re both referring to the same knowledge and experience of the history of jazz piano.”
The music is a “gift [from the past that] is both unique and stupendous,” says jazz historian Dan Morgenstern, one of seven annotators in the CD package’s 24-page illustrated booklet. “ . . . Alone and especially together, Tommy and Jaki show us what spontaneous creation is all about.”
When Resonance started working with Barkan, says Feldman, on the lauded 2011 release of Pinnacle, a magnificent 1980 performance by Freddie Hubbard and the first Keystone Discoveries title, “We became aware that the Flanagan-Byard session was something Todd was absolutely passionate about.”
Over the past few years, Resonance has established itself as a home for such notable rediscoveries through acclaimed releases like Hubbard’s Pinnacle, Bill Evans’s Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate, and Wes Montgomery’s Echoes of Indiana Avenue. Each of these releases has boasted vivid sound quality and an attention to detail that attests to the label’s respect and admiration for the musicians.
“Resonance is trying to become a leader in historical jazz recordings and this totally fits the bill,” Feldman says. “We’re putting out this music because we really believe in it—we believe in Jaki Byard, we believe in Tommy Flanagan, and we want to celebrate both of these artists for their contributions to this music. And we also want to celebrate Todd Barkan’s vision.”
Five of the eleven tracks find Flanagan and Byard melding their encyclopedic knowledge of jazz piano history in festive fashion: “Scrapple from the Apple,” “Just One of Those Things,” “Satin Doll,” “Our Delight,” and “The Theme.” The disc also features six solo pieces, split evenly between the two pianists. All three of Flanagan’s three unaccompanied contributions come from the pen of Billy Strayhorn (“Something to Live For,” “Chelsea Bridge,” “All Day Long”). Byard leads with Stevie Wonder’s “Send One Your Love,” and also places his stamp on the Jule Styne standard “Sunday” and Chuck Mangione’s “Land of Make Believe.”
The Magic of 2 brings the listener back to that night through the loving sound restoration of label president George Klabin and Resonance’s engineer Fran Gala (from cassette tapes, no less). The CD comes with a 24-page booklet annotated by Barkan, Feldman, and Morgenstern as well as jazz critic Howard Mandel, pianists Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap, and Jaki’s daughter Diane Byard. Iconic images from the archive of Keystone staff photographer Tom Copi, some being published for the first time, illustrate the booklet, along with work by photographers Brian McMillen and Kathy Sloane.
The new album is also available as a digital download with digital booklet (where available), and as a limited edition 2-LP set pressed on 180-gram vinyl at 45-RPM by audiophile leaders R.T.I., with a deluxe gatefold, hard-stock jacket by Stoughton Press. Art direction and design was handled by industry veteran Burton Yount (Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall; Wes Montgomery/Echoes of Indiana Avenue).
Additionally, in the LP edition only is a special commemorative set of Keystone Korner postcards by Tom Copi, along with a retro reproduction of a Keystone Korner punch card (which regular patrons used when attending the club). The LP edition was mastered by Bernie Grundman (Sonny Rollins/Way Out West; Michael Jackson’s Thriller).
All in support of the “dynamic piano duo” of Flanagan and Byard, Barkan writes, which is “heard here in psychedelic terpsichore, evoking the chemistry of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”