Nicholas McNair | Samuel Gapp – Piano Duo

Nicholas McNair and Samuel Gapp, from different generations and different countries, have developed their musical skills under very different circumstances. What has brought them together is a profound mutual interest in spontaneous improvisation – that is, where nothing at all is decided in advance of playing. A dialogue is set up between two slightly different modes of musical being, one closer to classical and the other marked by jazz. Under these circumstances relationship becomes more important than fixed content, and the audience is invited to be open to participating in a new listening journey. They can be sure that whatever they find on the way in the musical experience is an integral part of the event, and just as valid as anyone else’s perspective.

This is the selective record of a meeting – of two Steinway grand pianos, audio and video equipment and technicians, and the fingers of a young jazz pianist and a much older classical pianist. The notes teased out intuitively by these fingers reflect an uncommon complicity that allowed us to walk onto the platform and begin to play without having decided anything more than the position of the pianos. Of the 49 pieces we recorded in total, in 2 sessions of 4 hours each, these 12 are a taste of the sheer joy we had in playing together on instruments of such quality. Needless to say, the suggested titles came later.

Gapp/McNair Piano Duo – Improvisation, Experience and Written Music
(A text by Nicholas McNair and a video of the first recording session, 29.07.2021)

“If there’s such a thing as a “best mirage,” it is the fata morgana, an exquisitely complex greatest hits package of everything light refraction can muster: dancing, diving, climbing, shapeshifting, delivering impossible (yet wholly filmable) first/second/third-eye opening phenomenological jolts. Likewise, when pianists Samuel Gapp and Nicholas McNair play the music of Mirages on two vintage Steinways, a coalescence of horizontality and vertical ascent constantly renegotiates observer and observed. The effect is all the more remarkable since Samuel and Nicholas arrive at their seamless improvisations spanning age and genre and geography, all of which shimmer in an instant(ly) shared dialect. In the liquid and languid moments, in the percussive avoirdupois, in the melodicisms and subversions of expectation, the suspension of conventional sightlines is itself the guide through this joyously elastic sense of dimension.”
– Killick Hinds, December 2021 

Photos by Henrique Santos