Last night was my first of what I hope to be many multi-keyboardist gigs blending acoustic piano with electric keyboards. It was a ton of fun, and that got me reflecting on some of my favorite examples of the blend between piano and other keyboards. For this list I spanned multiple genres, but limited it to examples with these instruments played by different people (thus ruling out some other great overdub-dependent examples featuring keyboard artists from Benmont Tench to Stevie Wonder to Herbie Hancock).
1 ) Aretha Franklin: “I’ve Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” from I’ve Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
Aretha’s rocking piano and Spooner Oldham’s brilliant and iconic Wurlitzer are in perfect synergy here.
2 ) Eddy Louis and Michel Petrucciani: “Jean-Philippe Herbien” from Conference de Presse
I’ve mentioned this album in other posts, and it remains one of my favorite two-keyboard duet albums, particularly among those that aren’t just two-piano (I almost put the Larry Young/Joe Chambers “After the Rain” on this list, but 10 is a small number!).
3 ) Walter Hawkins: “Goin’ Up Yonder” from Love Alive
Gospel music has a rich history of piano/Hammond organ blends, and the two instruments predominate from the very start of this epic track.
4 ) Wayne Escoffery: “Banishment of the Lost Spirit” from The Only Son of One
This is hardly the first jazz example of piano (in this case Orrin Evans) and synthesizer (Adam Holzman) being used together, but this track in particular was for me the most ear-opening of a whole album of textural enlightenment from my old pal Mr. Escoffery.
5 ) Jimmy Cliff: “Struggling Man” from Struggling Man
I’ve always loved Jimmy Cliff’s use of the piano/organ combination, and on this song the two instruments are both prominent and infectious.
6 ) Count Basie and Oscar Peterson: “Lil’ Darlin’” from Satch and Josh . . . Again
Oscar and the Count recorded multiple albums of duets and combos with two pianos, and they’re all great. My favorite moments, though, are the ones with greater textural contrast, as on this one on which Basie’s elegant piano blends seamlessly with Peterson’s bluesy electric piano.
7 ) Bruce Springsteen: “Prove It All Night” from Darkness on the Edge of Town
The Roy Bittan/Danny Federici two-keyboard texture was fundamental to the E Street Band sound for decades. This track, possibly best known for Springsteen’s underrepresented guitar soloing, features a particularly well-synced piano and organ.
8 ) The Band: “Up on Cripple Creek” from The Band
Richard Manuel’s piano here is juxtaposed against Garth Hudson’s organ and clavinet on this classic track – indeed, the Band may well count as the all-time MVPs of two-keyboard-istry.
9 ) Bill Stewart: “Tell a Televangelist” from Incandescence
Drummer Bill Stewart and organist Larry Goldings have played together a ton in a trio with guitarist Peter Bernstein, but on this album Peter’s “chair” is taken by pianist Kevin Hays. Goldings is also a great pianist – whether that’s the reason behind his expert blend with Hays, I’m not sure, but the results are wonderful.
10 ) Steely Dan: “Aja” from Aja
Steely Dan’s 1970s records provided no shortage of thick, luscious multi-keyboard textures. With all due respect to Donald Fagen’s own piano and synth contributions, I picked this iconic track that features Joe Sample’s Rhodes and Michael Omartian’s acoustic piano.