Discover the long-awaited release of a rare jazz guitar and piano duo album from 1977, featuring two of Ireland’s greatest jazz virtuosos.
A Rare Combination: Guitar and Piano Duos in Jazz
Jazz albums featuring nothing but guitar and piano are scarce. The most well-known examples are the Bill Evans and Jim Hall collaborations, Undercurrent (1962) and Intermodulation (1966). However, on May 26, 2023, two purely guitar-piano duo albums were released: Rain Shadows by Bruno Heinen and James Kitchman, and Some Other Blues by guitarist Louis Stewart and pianist Noel Kelehan. Both albums draw inspiration from the Evans/Hall collaborations, with stylistically different results.
A Long-awaited Release: ‘Some Other Blues’ (1977)
What’s surprising is not the shared release date, but the fact that Some Other Blues was allowed to gather dust for 46 years. This album is the only recording where Louis Stewart and Noel Kelehan, two of Ireland’s most prominent jazz virtuosos, can be heard playing together.
Stewart left Ireland in 1969 for a jazz career in London and appeared on over 70 albums, performing with notable musicians such as Tubby Hayes, Benny Goodman, Ronny Scott, Peter King, and George Shearing. Kelehan, on the other hand, stayed in Ireland and became a prolific conductor, arranger, and producer. He conducted 29 Eurovision entries and worked for RTE, Ireland’s public service broadcaster. Despite his busy career, Kelehan released a jazz album, Ozone (1979).
A Showcase of Talent and Versatility
Some Other Blues highlights Kelehan’s compositional skills on the ballad “I Only Have Time to Say I Love You,” where he and Stewart achieve an Evans/Hall level of empathy and delicacy. They exhibit the same finesse on other ballads, such as “If You Could See Me Now” and “Sometime Ago,” as well as on a fast but lyrical rendition of “Yesterdays.”
For the prestissimo numbers like “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” “Minority,” and “I’ll Remember April,” the duo’s playing is reminiscent of Joe Pass and Oscar Peterson. No matter how breakneck the tempi, Stewart and Kelehan never sound rushed, their quicksilver runs gliding by with grace and precision. The album also features Coltrane’s “Some Other Blues” and a deconstructed version of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
The Resurrection of Livia Records and the Future of Jazz Gems
The release of Some Other Blues was made possible when Livia Records, which ceased operations in 2005, was revived in 2021 by executive producer Dermot Rogers. According to the CD’s accompanying booklet, more reissues are forthcoming. Jazz enthusiasts eagerly await the discovery of other rare gems as captivating as this one.