The piano duel
Elton John and Leon Russell break their own patterns and surprise themselves.
FEW people can get away with telling an anecdote about being on safari in Africa and make it sound like a trip to the supermarket.
But for Elton John, that’s precisely how and where he became inspired to call his keyboard-playing pal Leon Russell after more than three decades since they’d last spoken. That call ultimately led them to record The Union, a duet album out now. “In 2008, I did a (Sundance cable channel) programme called Spectacle, which I produced with my partner, David Furnish,” said John, 63, referencing the Elvis Costello-hosted music interviewperformance series he helped create.
“I chose three singer-songwriters to talk about that I thought had been neglected: one was David Ackles, one was Laura Nyro and one was Leon Russell. At the end of the programme, I kind of made up a pseudo-Leon Russell song. Because my partner, David, had never heard of these people, he went out and bought all the CDs and put them on his iPod.
“In January of 2009, I was in Africa on safari, getting ready to go to lunch, and David started playing
Duet: Elton John salutes Leon Russell, one of his heroes, on their collaborative effort, TheUnion.