Mahavishnu John McLaughlin: Waltz for Bill Evans

My Goal's Beyond marked the first album by guitarist John McLaughlin in which he used the Mahavishnu name given to him by Guru Sri Chinmoy. The recording also featured, among others, future Mahavishnu Orchestra bandmates drummer Billy Cobham and violinist Jerry Goodman. But half the album featured John McLaughlin alone.

The Chick Corea-penned "Waltz for Bill Evans" is presented beautifully. A showcase for McLaughlin's mastery of guitar dynamics, it is also the album's most jazz-based performance, given its lush chords, rolling arpeggios, harmonics and tasteful runs that clearly come from the jazz idiom. McLaughlin's phenomenal timekeeping creates the patient textures that make up the fabric of the song. Short of what would become McLaughlin's inimitable playing style, there is nothing here that would indicate any connection to jazz-rock fusion. McLaughlin has played plenty of such tunes, actually. But for some reason they tend to be overlooked by detractors because of his more dramatic music. My Goal's Beyond is an album that all guitarists should hear.

March 12, 2009 · 0 comments


Mitchel Forman: My Foolish Heart

I can never say enough great things about Mitchel Forman. To me, he is one the best interpretive piano players and composers we have today. You put him together with legends drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Eddie Gomez to play the music of Bill Evans, and you get magic all over again.

Evans didn't write "My Foolish Heart," but it was part of his repertoire. Forman adds his own introduction on this performance. I'd pay just to hear that short section. Forman plays a beautiful "My Foolish Heart." DeJohnette gently brushes his cymbals as Gomez adds melodic accents by sliding up and down the neck of his bass and finishing the pianist's runs. This is just damn lovely stuff performed by an overly gifted Evans admirer and a rhythm section that truly knew the man and his music in an intimate way. I challenge anyone not to get lost in it. From the quality of this performance, I would say DeJohnette and Gomez came to know Mitchel Forman as well.

November 18, 2008 · 0 comments


Jazz Arts Trio: My Foolish Heart

I have been suggesting for years that jazz, even fusion, will eventually be treated as classical music. I am pleased to discover that the Jazz Arts Trio, accomplished in both the classical and jazz fields, has already begun that process. After playing together as high-school students, these superb musicians took different routes, yet three decades later found themselves together again. For this project, they painstakingly transcribed some of the greatest jazz piano trio performances ever captured, then re-created every note and accent live for their CD Tribute.

The band's reenactment of one of the greatest jazz ballads, "My Foolish Heart," replicates the Bill Evans Trio's live version featuring Scott LaFaro and Paul Motion in a famous Village Vanguard performance from 1961. Of all of the tributes on the album, "My Foolish Heart," with its fragile beauty and melancholy melody, best lends itself to classical treatment. Bill Evans approached jazz with a certain classical bent anyway, although unlike the Jazz Arts Trio, he created his own improvisations.

I have heard the original Evans performance, but don't have it in my collection to compare it beat by beat with this re-creation. While that may have been fun, it would have missed the point. A note-for-note replication of any performance could be one of the hardest things to do in jazz. Being able to sound like a soloing Bill Evans and his groundbreaking rhythm section is probably even harder. But we don't give points in jazz for cloning. Clones may possess identical physiology, but they haven't the same personality or spirit. The music still has to move us. This performance does so. I have listened to it several times. As far as I am concerned, this could just as well have been the original group. I feel every sentiment in this loving and skillful re-creation as I did on the Evans original. Of course, this is not really a jazz performance per se as there is no improvisation. But it may be a precursor to the future of some jazz. For that reason this conceptual presentation is an important addition to the jazz genre.

Pianist Fred Moyer is the main cog in Tribute because he is the pianist. But let's hope there are two more Jazz Arts Trio re-creations Tribute Bass and Tribute Drums. It's only fair that Tillotson and Fraenkel get their chances to be main cogs too.

November 05, 2008 · 0 comments


Jessica Williams: I Remember Bill

No other jazz pianist of the mid-20th century more profoundly influenced his instrument than Bill Evans. Although he died nine years before the Maybeck recitals began, Evans's presence is palpable throughout this moving 4-minute tribute, which is so engrossing, you're startled when it ends. Jazz, normally the extroverted denizen of nightclubs and bustling cities, doesn't readily lend itself to Walden Pond's quiet introspection. Thankfully, Maybeck gave Jessica Williams an unexcelled setting for looking inward, and her audience raptly follows. Some listeners may dismiss this as New Age dinner music. Let them eat fast food. We'll take caviar by candlelight anytime.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


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