Paul Kelly and Paul Grabowsky
Please Leave Your Light On
Australia’s greatest and most enduring songwriter, the exceptionally versatile Paul Kelly collaborates with perhaps the country’s best jazz pianist, and strong composer in his own right, Paul Grabowky – not “Me and Paul” but Paul and Paul. Yes, these are songs for just vocal and piano, as intimate as it gets, reminiscent of Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle (The Wee Small Hours) and the collaborations of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans (to whose playing Grabowsky’s has been compared). This writer has seen Paul Kelly in concert, has seen the adoration he receives from Australians, and never ceases to be amazed by his songwriting. Kelly is an immensely energetic, humorous, and engaging live performer with his rock bands. To hear him in this setting, adds yet another chapter to his versatile, restless approach.
These are all Kelly’s songs, transcribed by Grabowsky for this configuration. You’ll find all but one in his catalog except the album opener, “True to You,” a nod to the Gershwin brothers and one Grabowky added, Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” which has one of his best piano solos. The others were all chosen on criteria that included direct address, close, concentrated performance and room for silence. Pertaining to the latter, Grabowsky does mostly play in a minimalist style, letting certain chords and notes resonate, lingering in the air. That quality certainly adds to the noir romantic vibe the album exudes.
Kelly delivers these songs sensitively, oft in understated fashion, half singing/ half spoken word in some. Yet, the deep communication between the two is vividly apparent in every selection, aptly described this way by Kelly, “The reason I love working with Paul is that he always surprises me. He’s endlessly fertile, turning my songs inside out and upside down (to quote Diana Ross) and finding things in them I didn’t know were there. And that makes me sing them differently. Singing with Paul is like Walking a tightrope. It’s as if we are acrobats together. We have to pay serious attention to one another to pull the songs off. I like that.”
Listen to the title track as a great example of the communication present throughout. Every so often Kelly will play the harmonica, (“You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed” and “If I Could Start Today Again”) and that third instrument may surprise at first, but of course, it fits well within the tone of the album. Speaking of which, this is meant to be heard in its entirety. It’s not as if you could pull radio friendly tunes from it anyway. For Kelly fans, it’s special to hear versions of his most notable songs like “Winter Coat,” “Time and Tide,” and “Petrichor” as just a few examples, in this duet format. The imagery in his songs have increased impact. Given our stay-at-home status in recent months, this is one of those ideal introspective late night listens – perhaps with a glass of wine. The strong guess here is that you’ll return to this recording often in the wee hours.
- Jim Hynes