Although pianists Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis got their duo-piano concert at Ambassador Auditorium Wednesday going on the right track, ultimately they were like two dance partners who hadn't worked together for a while--musically stepping on each others' toes and knocking each other off-balance. But they did it in such a grand, effusive manner that few in the crowd seemed to know, or care.
Playing two opposite-facing acoustic keyboards, the musicians followed the opening "Moten Swing" with "Body and Soul," where first Taylor soloed, offering sparse melody and bass lines that moved together like weaving drunks on a stroll, and then his partner, who was his typical funky-soulful self. Also tasteful were "Django," where Taylor fully explored that tune's potential for blues expression, and "Armando's Rhumba," a Chick Corea opus that was splendidly delivered.
Then the trouble started. Taylor's "Soul Sister" found both players rushing their lines, and placing their chordal accents so they clashed with the others'. And a Duke Ellington medley, which took up the the second half, save the encore, found the men cramming more notes than would fit into medium and up-tempo renditions of "It Don't Mean a Thing," "I'm Beginning to See The Light," "Satin Doll" and "Caravan." However, ballads like "Solitude," where the players utilized welcome space, were poignantly moving. The show needed more of the latter moments.