Mitchel Forman: Very Early

It's no secret that I consider Mitchel Forman one of the most underrated jazz pianists of the last 25 years. He has spent formative time playing with John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter and other important artists. But his true musical worth is best found in his projects as leader. He is an extremely gifted technician, a wonderful composer and possesses a musical mind that produces some of the most interesting improvisation I have ever heard. He is also well aware of his influences and finds time to honor them.

Forman takes Bill Evans's lovely waltz "Very Early" on an aggressive jaunt. His block chords develop a substantive theme that leads to a swing approach of a tune that Evans most often played as almost a fragile lullaby. Importantly, Forman is joined by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, both pivotal players in Evans's trios. This trio attacks the piece with an energy that connotes their true respect for Evans. They are putting out. At one point, Forman and the band do tone things down a bit to play with some of that fragility I mentioned earlier. But they quickly return to the faster tempo. I suppose these three could have played "Very Early" much in Evans's style. But what would be the point of mimicry? A better tribute is to take the man's tune and create from it. This they have done.

April 24, 2008 · 0 comments


John McLaughlin: Very Early

This is one of Bill Evans's most beautiful compositions. McLaughlin's admiration for Evans is well known. He played "Very Early" on his Belo Horizonte album. But he gives it a lengthier treatment on his tribute to Bill Evans, Time Remembered. Performing with a guitar quartet and a bassist, McLaughlin treats the tune as if it were a fragile piece of glass. The overuse of reverb in the recording is a little annoying, but it does not break the spell of this lush lullaby. This is McLaughlin in his most romantic, almost saccharine, bag. There is a great energy nonetheless to his improvised parts. Some people didn't like McLaughlin's heavily arranged "classical" approach to Evan's music on this and other tunes. But my wife loves the album. If my wife can love any album from an electric fusion god, there is hope for us all.

January 26, 2008 · 0 comments


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