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Face To Face Works by Bell, Chopin, Lux Lewis, Beethoven and Pinetop Smith Tom Bell (pf) www.tombellpiano.co.uk, 45 mins

****

“An intriguing disc which at first glance looks like it shouldn’t work, but does. Boogie-woogie and blues (by Bell and others) are pitted against well-known pieces by Beethoven and Chopin. The Chopin items plus the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata finale share with boogie-woogie a need for finger fluency and velocity, and Bell provides those in spades. Contrasts are finely drawn (between Bell’s Boogie an Chopin Op 10/1, for example).

Bell is finest in his own works, spewing forth froth like a malfunctioning barista. The frivolity is infectious, the atmosphere closer to a live performance than the studio; but underlying all of this is Bell’s rock solid sense of rhythm. Chopin’s Ballade No 4 hints at the depths Bell can achieve in the standard repertoire. Well recorded, this is something of a treat.” CC