Album review | Tommy Cecil & Bill Mays’s Side By Side: Sondheim Duos

by John Cook
CapitalBop contributor

Side By Side: Sondheim Duos is an enjoyable project that applies considerable sensitivity to an edge of the great American songbook that has been less traveled in jazz circles: the show tunes of Stephen Sondheim. Though they don’t perform any of their own compositions, the duo of the pianist Bill Mays and the bassist Tommy Cecil uncovers some original ground in this effort, consistently demonstrating a deep rapport that seems very conversational and effortless. There’s no doubt it is founded on a mutual familiarity with each other’s playing.

Selected as one of five discs on “CapitalBop’s Best Albums of 2012: Honorable Mention.” Click to view the full list.

The piano-bass duo format provides a lighter sonic palette, which is ultimately well suited to the material. It provides opportunities to explore nuances in the compositions that would not be so apparent in their native Broadway treatments.  The result is a pleasant listen, with the unity in feel that comes from the work of a single composer but enough depth to remain interesting throughout.

“Not While I’m Around,” Tommy Cecil & Bill Mays

One can hope that now that they’ve completed this repertory project, Mays and Cecil will record some of their own compositions. The ease of their communication and the way they seem to complete each other’s sentences would be put to good use on a project that focuses on exploring original material.

You can purchase Side by Side at CDBaby.



Giovanni Russonello

About Giovanni Russonello

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Giovanni is the founder of CapitalBop, and a music critic for the New York Times. He previously served as a contributor to the Washington Post, the FADER, JazzTimes, NPR Music and others, and hosted “On the Margin,” a books show on WPFW-FM. As head of CapitalBop, he has covered the D.C. jazz scene since 2010. (He is no longer directly involved in the presenting of CapitalBop's concerts.) He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. Reach Giovanni at Reach Giovanni at

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