Elmo Hope: Vi-Ann
Elmo Hope (piano)
The Final Sessions (Evidence 22147-2)
Elmo Hope (piano),
John Ore (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums).
Composed by Elmo Hope.
Recorded: New York, May 9, 1966
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
When Elmo Hope died in 1967 at just 44 years of age, it was believed his last recording had been the 1963 session Sounds from Rikers Island, the title of which hinted at the drug problem that tormented him over the years. Hope's original 1966 studio date went unreleased until 1977, when it was issued on two LPs as Last Sessions (Volumes 1 and 2), only to reappear in the '90's in more complete form on a 2-CD set retitled The Final Sessions. Hope was an early, relatively unacknowledged bebop pioneer, a close friend of Bud Powell, and also knew Monk and Herbie Nichols. Unlike the even more neglected Nichols, Hope at least got to record some of his distinctive compositions with horns, most notably four of them on Harold Land's classic The Fox. He also recorded with Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Jackie McLean, Coltrane, and Hank Mobley.
"Vi-Ann" (complete and unedited on CD) is a good example of Hope's approach both as player and composer, each of which is closer to Nichols than to Monk or Powell. Classically trained, Hope had technique to spare, but even at this fast tempo a feeling of thoughtfulness pervades his improvisation. Hope's theme is a well-structured, ingratiating bop anthem that he expands upon inventively in his engrossing solo. The pianist's light, tinkling touch adds to the effect of his fluid extended lines, which he intersperses with sprightly repeated figures and riffs. Clifford Jarvis, a great but underappreciated drummer, is wonderful on this piece, from his cymbal/bass drum intro to his zesty accents and fills, and also in his forcefully expressive solo that utilizes the full resources of his kit in an artfully well-balanced manner. John Ore solos solidly as well, although Hope's shrewd comping during the bassist's creation dominates your attention. Hope's reprise of the theme features a memorable spaced-out single-note concluding progression, just before an answering final emphatic flurry from Jarvis.
Reviewer: Scott Albin