Pianists pick up where they left off
When Ed Clute phoned fellow pianist Joe Holmes last year, it had been more than 40 years since the latter had seen the former.
"He told me, `I'm here in Derby, Conn. I don't know where you live,
but you can't be that far away,' " Holmes said.
Clute's hunch was correct. With Holmes living near the Norwalk and Darien line, they were
really only a little more than a half-hour away.
Clute, of Watkins Glen, N.Y., was in the area and was interested in a visit, but he was hoping to play a bit of music, too. "He asked me, `Hey Joe, is there anyplace we can play two pianos?' " Holmes said.
Fortunately for the two longtime musicians, such a place existed. They met at the Darien Community Association. "The place was absolutely empty," Holmes said. "But we just blew the walls down on this place for an hour-and-a-half. We were having a ball."
For Holmes and Clute, it was as if no time had passed since they played together as teenagers. "We just had this phenomenal chemistry when we were young," Holmes said.
That improvised jam session has inspired a twin piano concert set for 7:30 p.m. March 28 at the association, 274 Middlesex Road. The concert will feature some classic show tunes, as well as some well-known jazz songs.
Holmes, who is an association member, as well as the leader of the Joe Holmes Swing Band, and Clute, who is a well-known jazz pianist, will perform in the high-energy, "stride style" of play.
"When the chemistry is there, the energy level is just phenomenal," Holmes said of the style. "On the night of the concert, we are going to have a real good time, because it is so much fun."
In "stride style," a pianist's left hand "flies over the keys," driving the rhythm.
"You feel the beat and it just wants to make your feet tap," Holmes said. "There's just this romping, stomping energy coming out."
Holmes and Clute first started playing together more than 50 years ago, when the two would visit their respective grandparents at summer homes in the Adirondacks region of New York. "There were lots of camps that had pianos and we played everywhere we went," Holmes said. "One camp had twin Steinways and you couldn't get us off those things."
Holmes, who grew up in New Canaan, said, growing up, there always had been twin Steinways in the living room. "My father taught me to play the bottom half of the piano," said Holmes. "He taught me chords and chord structures and counter harmony."
So, as Holmes played the bottom, his father would play along at the top. But, as Holmes' sisters came along, he had to make room at the bottom so the next set of lessons could begin. Soon, Holmes had mastered all elements of piano play -- top and bottom. Such play requires some finesse, and often visual cues or hand signals can help keep the pianists in synch. But what makes Holmes' play with Clute even more distinct is that Clute is blind.
"I don't have any of those with Ed," Holmes said, but added that it is no detriment to the play. "He knows exactly where I am going to go. We just have the same instincts on the piano."
Tickets are $25 for nonmembers, $15 for members. Call 203-655-9050.
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