Delightful Jazz Tunes for Two Pianos
Richard Dowling & Frederick Hodges, duo-pianists
Product Details
Label: Rivermont Records
Release Date:  May 1, 2019
Catalog Number:  BSW-2248
1 . Cocktails for Two (6:32)      
Begin the Beguine (4:12)  
By the Waters of Minnetonka (2:49)
4. Dainty Miss (1:55)     
5. Deep Purple (4:44)   
6. Doll Dance (2:32)  
7. In a Mist (4:22)  
Malagueña (3:31)   
9. Rag Doll (2:24)   
10. Short Story (2:55)  
11. The Wedding of the Painted Doll (2:54)
Variations on "Yankee Doodle"
12.     Theme and Variation I - In the manner of Bach (2:02)
13.     Variation II - In the manner of Beethoven (2:10)
14.     Variation III - In the manner of Chopin (2:31)
15.     Variation IV - In the manner of Debussy (2:04)
16.     Variation V - In the manner of Gershwin (2:53)

Total Time  51:35
Track Listings (click red tracks for sound sample)
The art of arranging popular music for two pianos blossomed during the first half of
the twentieth century. The sparkle and richness of twin pianos was deemed essential
to the success of many Broadway shows like Gershwin's 1924 hit
Lady Be Good!
(starring Fred and Adele Astaire). In Cocktails for Two, pianists Richard Dowling and
Frederick Hodges revive more than a dozen scintillating, virtuosic piano duets of the
art deco era by such composers and arrangers as George Gershwin, Zez Confrey, Bix
Beiderbecke, Ernesto Lecuona, Cole Porter, Nacio Herb Brown, and Mario Braggiotti.
The CD includes a 16-page color booklet with detailed notes by the artists.

In recent years, Frederick Hodges’ and Richard Dowling’s duo performances have
become prominent and popular highlights of ragtime and jazz music festivals across
the United States. Their virtuoso classical technique and extraordinary musicianship
combine to create spectacular, emotionally moving, and memorable musical
experiences for their audiences.
Recorded September 18, 2018 at Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland, CA

Produced by Richard Dowling and Frederick Hodges
Executive Producer for Rivermont: Bryan Wright
Engineering: Norman Landsberg
Editing: Dix Bruce
Mastering: Bryan Wright

Pianos:  Fazioli F278 #F2782369 (Dowling) and Yamaha CFX #6425000 (Hodges)
Piano Technician:  Michael Callahan
Photos:  Gundi Vigfusson & Derek Mueller
Cover and Booklet Design:  Bryan Wright
Credit Information
Click cover for larger picture
Liner Notes
Frederick Hodges & Richard Dowling, duo-pianists
Arthur Johnston - Sam Caslow
Cole Porter
Thurlow Lieurance
Bernard Barnes
Peter De Rose
Nacio Herb Brown
Bix Beiderbecke
Ernesto Lecuona
Nacio Herb Brown
George Gershwin
Arthur Freed - Nacio Herb Brown
Mario Braggiotti
Cocktails for Two Fanfare Magazine Review - August 2019
    Hodges and Dowling (or Dowling and Hodges, if you prefer!) have
vibrant and enduring solo careers. Dowling’s three-CD set of Scott
Joplin's complete piano music (BSW-2240) is one of the highlights of the
Rivermont catalog, and Hodges, a ragtime specialist as well, also has
recorded extensively and performed all over the world. How lucky we are
that they also take time to perform and record together, both preserving
the memory of and educating new fans about the importance of duo
pianism in American popular music. I was glad, when I opened
Rivermont's booklet, to see photos of Victor Arden and Phil Ohman (one
of my favorite duos), Al and Lee Reiser, and others. It takes talent to
master a piano, obviously, but it takes a different kind of talent to succeed
as a duo pianist. Hodges and Dowling are in possession of both types of
talent, and they also have excellent tastes, as demonstrated by the
selections on this program.

    Some of these pieces have been arranged by Hodges himself, and not
without wink in his eye. (His brilliant, virtuosic version of Cocktails for Two
suggests that said cocktails are being enjoyed by an American in Paris. It
almost banishes memories of Spike Jones's immor(t)al send-up of this
song!) In addition to his original arrangements, Hodges also painstakingly
transcribed Zez Comfrey’s piano roll arrangement of By the Waters of
Minnetonka and created a two-piano performance version from it. Begin
the Beguine was arranged by Cy Walter, another great duo pianist, and
several other selections were arranged by Jacques Fray, a duo pianist
who worked with Mario Braggioti, who in turn is represented by his witty
set of variations (in the style of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, and
finally Gershwin) on Yankee Doodle. Thus, despite the vintage quality of
these melodies, they are presented in both old and new versions on this
program. Sure, there's an element of kitsch to playing popular tunes (from
a time when tunes were truly tuneful) in splashy arrangements for two
pianos, but I don't have a problem with that, do you?

    In each selection, the two pianists create a crisp, sparkling, and
symphonic sound. Hodges (left channel) plays a Yamaha concert grand,
and Dowling (right channel) plays a Fazioli concert grand, and the subtle
differences between the two pianos increase the delightful complexity of
their massed sound. The superb engineering also helps.

    I don't know whether to bless or curse the two pianists for including
Fray's version of Nacio Herb Brown's The Wedding of the Painted Doll.
(The original lyrics were by Arthur Freed.) That's because whenever I
hear this tune, it remains stuck in my head for the next two weeks and
more or less drives me crazy. But it's a good kind of crazy...! (If you want
a treat, go to YouTube to see the song's appearance in The Broadway
Melody from 1929, which was the first sound film to win an Academy
Award for Best Picture. The choreography is dated and the dancing is
more athletic than graceful, but that just adds to the charm.)

    These duo pianists recorded a Gershwin album for Rivermont
(Gershwin for Two Pianos, BSW-2227), and if it is even half as delightful
as Cocktails for Two, it needs to be heard. Duo pianism never really died,
yet Dowling and Hodges (or Hodges and Dowling, if you prefer!) have
done much to give it a shot of adrenaline with this new release. Don't
deny yourself the pleasure!

Raymond Tuttle
5 stars – Brilliant fun! I didn't stop smiling.