Firm Roots Duo (Lara Driscoll & Chris White)

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Marco's Northside Grill, 329 Waukegan, Highwood, IL

Jazz piano duo No cover charged

When distinguished pianists Chris White and Lara Driscoll perform as the Firm Roots Duo, they draw on lines of communication that are almost unknowably deep. They’ve developed that bond as spouses, of course, but also as fine independent artists with voices of their own. Based in the Chicago area, they first met as students of pianist John “Chip” Stephens at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And ever since, they’ve set aside space in their busy respective careers to hone and formalize a concept they’ve documented on Firm Roots, their extraordinary duo debut.

Named for the ebullient Cedar Walton composition “Firm Roots” (which was also the recessional at their wedding), White and Driscoll state in their liner notes: “Roots are often unseen, but their resilience and determination to stabilize the tree above makes them quietly powerful and humbly significant. It is therefore only fitting that Firm Roots is both our title track and the name of our duo. It is, in fact, our mission statement.”

White and Driscoll have performed as the Firm Roots Duo in Boston, Japan and Thailand. They approach their duo work as though they’re actually a band. Their music becomes a beautifully arranged musical journey, rich in orchestration, textural detail and counterpoint, with big bass frequencies and vibrant rhythms, all woven together with a bluesy and lyrical melodic sense. They interpret canonical jazz works by Horace Silver, Ann Ronell and more, drawing on the influences of piano legends on the order of Hank Jones, Art Tatum and Phineas Newborn. In their co-composed original music, they rely on a collaborative process of careful listening, give-and-take and interwoven inspiration, reflecting a growing store of shared life experiences, from transformative or comical travels to serene moments spent together at home. In its way, the music of the Firm Roots Duo serves to “remind us of what is most important: family, health, and interconnectedness.”