Allan Harris and Takana Miyamoto – Convergence (2012)

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While many a pianist/vocalist duo has surely been influenced by the twin mid-1970s collaborations of Bill Evans and Tony Bennett, it’s another thing entirely to take those albums head on. But Takana Miyamoto, who’s previously appeared in an Evans tribute trio, and singer Allan Harris do just that on the forthcoming Convergence — set for release May 22, 2012, by Love Productions Records.

They pull it off, too.

Credit Miyamoto, who brings more than just an affinity for Evans to the project, having already proved a sensitive accompanist behind vocalists Nnenna Freelon and Rene Marie. That helps her occupy a role on Convergence not unlike the one that Evans played with Bennett decades ago — playing, by turns, with sensitive deference but then also gently guiding the mood at others.

That works in great contrast with Harris, whose vocals have an undercurrent of Broadway bluster. In combining these disparate styles, Harris and Miyamoto recall the initial Bennett/Evans pairing. Still, because of the distinct influences that mark Harris’s delivery, he and Miyamoto never follow along too closely. The baritone simply has too much blues and soul in his sound to be properly compared to the big-hearted, but sometimes overly dramatic Bennett.

What they share is a sense of discovery in this music. Bennett perhaps never had a more appropriately conveyed pair of sessions, so much so that he even carries off the thunderously dull lyrics added later by Gene Lees to Evans’ classic “Waltz for Debby.” Harris seems similarly emboldened, as he approaches these tunes with delicate grace and perfectly attenuated gumption.

Of course, theirs isn’t an easy task. Nobody is getting close to the exquisite beauty of the original Bennett/Evans take on “The Touch of Your Lips,” not even these two talented acolytes, but Harris’ heartfelt unaccompanied introduction positively glows. Similarly, “My Foolish Heart” — one of this album’s most patient, crystalline moments — ultimately establishes its own tender charms.

By the time Convergence is over, Allan Harris and Takana Miyamoto do more than construct a bouyant and very listenable companion piece to a modern-day jazz classic. They claim a corner of these jazz standards’ legacy for themselves, too.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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