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Top Jazz Pianists Mr. B and Bob Seeley Face Off on New CD 'Back To Back'

Two of today's leading "boogie-woogie" piano players face off on a new album of jazz and blues classics. As VOA's Doug Levine reports, "boogie-woogie" piano is alive and well on Bob Seeley and Mr. B's Back To Back.

On the album, Mark Lincoln Braun, also known as Mr. B, plays "Chicago Breakdown."

Then, "boogie-woogie" veteran Bob Seeley plays the same piece.

"Chicago Breakdown" never sounded so good, but do they really sound any different? Bob Seeley thinks so.

"I think, in this case, it really turned out great because Mark's style and mine are quite a bit different, and it shows that contrast," he says. "It's not like you're hearing that same song over again a second time. They're entirely different."

One of the most challenging songs was "St. Louis Blues," a tune performed so often it almost screams for an update. Mr. B says Bob Seeley performs it to near perfection.

"I would say that after hearing Bob play it dozens and dozens of times in front of audiences around the country and overseas, we've traveled some together, and just seeing the reaction of people, I would say his version of 'St. Louis Blues' is really superb," says Mr. B.

"This is a piece which is really open to interpretation," he adds. "It's been recorded, of course, possibly as much as any tune in the history of jazz and blues. I don't know that to be true, but it's been recorded thousands of times and everybody brings their own viewpoint to it. And Bob's is just one piece which in one broad stroke can kind of go through quite a few of the different eras and styles within the jazz piano history."

Mr. B has a slightly different take on "St. Louis Blues."

Mr. B and Bob Seeley have been collaborating on and off since their first meeting at a "Big" Joe Turner concert in Detroit, Michigan. Although they are more than 25 years apart in age, they share a tireless dedication to "boogie-woogie" piano. Making the album, says Mr. B, was pure fun.

"Bob and I have spent our lives playing the music we love. While I'm not going to tell you that every one was the first take, we didn't monkey (fool) around with it a whole lot," he says. "We went and laid them (songs) down and let them fly and here you have it. I think the record has that kind of feel to it."

"I hate to go to a jazz concert and everybody is playing the exact same style for three or four hours. You need variety. I think when you hear both of us play there's a variety there," Seeley says.

One of two bonus tracks on Back To Back is "Honky Tonk Train Blues," composed by "boogie-woogie" master Meade "Lux" Lewis and performed by Bob Seeley.