For the second in his series of Two Duos recordings, pianist-composer, Randy Klein engages in musical conversation on What's Next?, featuring electric bass guitarist virtuoso Boris Kozlov and guitarist Alex Skolnick. What's Next?, is the followup to his 2010 acclaimed CD, Sunday Morning, which showcased Klein in duets with trombonist, Chris Washburne and Russian saxophonist, Oleg Kireyev. This outing summons up the delicate interaction of pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall on their classic 1962 encounter, Undercurrent, and the crystalline duets over time between Chick Corea and Gary Burton. Alternating tracks with Boris Kozlov, the Russian-born bassist, the longstanding anchor of the Mingus Big Band, and Alex Skolnick , the heavy metal turned jazz guitarist (of Testament and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Klein establishes an indelible hookup in the studio with his versatile duet partners.
Whether it's the tight unisons between piano and guitar on the sprightly opener Exalted Kingdom" and the challenging number Casa China" or the intricate interplay between bass and piano on the introspective Inner Voice" and the floating Return to Splendor," there is a high degree of listening that takes place in these intimate sessions. Kozlov's remarkable fluidity on the electric bass guitar (he is mostly known for his stalwart upright bass playing) is highlighted on Klein's melodic Dear Charles Mingus" and the gentle waltz-time number Tea for Three." Skolnick, an accomplished player who also leads his own trio, contributes playful call-and-response on the exhilarating No" while offering shimmering arpeggios and dazzling six-string lines on the beautiful In the Twilight Hours" and sensitive accompaniment on the classically-informed Père Lachaise" (named for the Parisian cemetery where author Richard Wright, chanteuse Edith Piaf and rock star Jim Morrison were laid to rest).
Klein has high praise for his duet partners on What's Next? These are top-notch players! And when you play with players who are on this level, it really becomes a dream come true. Boris is astounding. His facility on the electric bass guitar is breathtaking and for me as a player, it is a joy to communicate on this level. And of course, he's a great listener. I had heard Boris playing upright bass the one that actually belonged to Charles Mingus - with the Mingus Big Band but then I went out to Puppets in Brooklyn where he was playing electric bass guitar with a vocalist and I was really knocked out by what he was doing on that instrument. In that moment I thought, 'Oh my god, I have to play duets with him!' Alex was introduced to me by a radio promoter with great ears named Michael Moryc. He thought we should play together. I hadn't heard of Alex. But when we got together one afternoon and played the first time, we immediately connected and knew that we would enjoy improvising together. So I chose six tunes that I had a feeling would make him shine on his guitar, and it just went down really easily in the studio."
Klein adds that the revealing duo setting is a format that he particularly enjoys. It's a communication where you're out on a limb, extremely exposed and at the same time you have to be careful that you're not stepping on the other person's toes. Sometimes I'm playing accompanist and then I have to switch over and be soloist, and not get too heavy-handed playing left-hand bass, particularly when I'm playing with a bassist. With guitar, I have to be careful that the two instruments aren't blurring each other out by playing in the same register. Duet playing is a bit frightning, but also extremely joyful, it is a delicate balance and when it becomes a little scary, is when the best music emerges."
Klein envisions his Two Duos project as an ongoing series that can continue for years to come. This series has developed very organically," he explains. I had been playing duets with Oleg Kireyev just casually in my apartment and one point he said, 'We really should record these.' We recorded six pieces and they came out really well. We were going to record another six when Oleg had to depart for Moscow, and he suggested that I, 'Pick someone else you like to play with and record the other six and see what happens.' So I called Chris Washburne, who's a dear friend. Chris and I recorded six more and I then it was natural to have the tracks alternate between instruments. This back and forth developed into the sequencing of that first record. That's how the project started. And when I decided to do a second one, I decided to go for two different colors, two different instruments. And now I'm thinking about the third Two Duos recording with two other instruments. What I'm hoping for with this project is that eventually audiences will be able to say, Hey, there's this series of these duets. You should hear #5 or #8.' That's sort of in the back of my mind with it."
A native New Yorker and Berklee College of Music graduate, Klein is an accomplished a prolific eclectic composer and acclaimed pianist. He has racked up impressive credits in musical theater along with 11 recordings as a leader for the independent label Jazzheads, which he founded in 1992. A recipient of the 2011-12 Simons Fellowship from the Hall Center of the Humanities at the University of Kansas, 2009 BMI Foundation Jerry Harrington Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Musical Theatre, he has won four Southern Regional Emmy Awards and been nominated for a 1998 Jerry Boch Award for his theater composition. He is the winner of the USA Songwriting Competition 2005 in the Jazz category and top two in the overall category for his composition Data." He received gold records for songs recorded by Polydor recording artist Millie Jackson. His songs have also been recorded by Candy Staton, Sarah Dash (formerly of LaBelle), the rap group Black Sheep, the RCA group IRT, Memphis Bleak and Sesame Street.
His musical theater works include Move!, a dance musical commissioned by the Royal Theatre Carre', Amsterdam (premiered April, 1992); I Don't Do Club Dates, staged reading at the Victory Theater September, 1991 by the National Musical Theater Network and at the John Harms Center for the Arts, Englewood, NJ, January 1994; and Capture The Moon, based on the Eastern European folklore stories of the Wise Men of Chelm. In 1989, I Don't Do Club Dates earned Klein a BMI Foundation grant for artistic promise in theater composition. He has also composed music for Falling Apart, a chamber musical utilizing elements of both musical theater and the jazz concert; Bucky And His Friends, a full-length contemporary vaudeville show for stage, video and CD; and Flambé Dreams, an original musical about a man who dreams of becoming a great maitre'd, which was featured at the New York Musical Theatre Festival 2012.
His documentary film scores include National Emmy winner Free To Dance (PBS Great Performances), National Emmy winner Beyond Tara - The Extraordinary Life Of Hattie McDaniel (American Movie Classics) and Richard Wright - Black Boy (PBS/BBC production). He is the composer of For My People, a song cycle featuring the poetry of American author, Margaret Walker. For My People was featured at the 2012 Furious Flower Poetry Festival at James Madison University and the University of Kansas. Lineage won the 2009 CAP Grant sponsored by the American Music Center.
Klein is a long time member of the advanced BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, The Dramatists Guild, NARAS and an alumnus of the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Randy Klein is an exclusive Steinway Artist.