From the 1920s into the 1950s it was not unusual for two skilled pianists to perform duets of arranged music that, while inspired by the syncopations of jazz, fell into its own category of music. The trend really got going with the piano team of Victor Arden and Phil Ohman in 1924. The tradition of piano duets included show tunes, novelty ragtime, cocktail music, and classical themes, yet was difficult to classify as anything but classy and accessible music.
While the playing often sounds improvised, all of the music was written out. Hodges and Dowling dig into such numbers as “Begin The Beguine,” “By The Waters Of Minnetonka,” “Deep Purple,” “The Wedding Of The Painted Doll,” and even a fresh reworking of Bix Beiderbecke’s “In A Mist.” Concluding the program is Mario Braggioti’s amusing and entertaining five-part “Variations On ‘Yankee Doodle’” which is played in the styles of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, and Gershwin.
Sure, it is not technically jazz or ragtime, but Cocktails For Two will be of strong interest to fans of both genres. The brilliant piano playing is a joy to hear.