Cannonball Adderley: Waltz For Debby

The transitional Know What I Mean? is too often overlooked when assessing the résumés of Cannonball Adderley and his pianist on this session, Bill Evans. At the time, Adderley was enjoying the breakthrough success of his quintet with brother Nat, and Evans was leading his most famous and influential trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Evans's initial, brief rendition of his tune "Waltz for Debby" came in 1956, and he would record it for the third time, definitively, live at the Village Vanguard with his trio in June 1961. What makes this interim version, created just three months earlier, additionally intriguing is the unexpected rhythm team of the Modern Jazz Quartet's Percy Heath and Connie Kay.

Evans lovingly plays his hypnotic theme with a rich and ringing tone, before Adderley contributes his own reading. Adderley sounds unusually prim, refined and proper, at least until he begins his solo, at which point he quickly reveals his more bluesy and soulful side, combined with technical polish, lucid lyricism and irresistible warmth. Evans follows only too briefly, as Adderley regrettably reprises the theme before the pianist can fully develop any ideas. As for Heath and Kay, they more than adequately complement Adderley and Evans, with Kay in particular supplying a very becoming and propulsive rhythmic framework. Adderley and Evans had come a long way since appearing together on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue two years before, and it could be that each was just hitting his stride at the time this track was recorded.

February 18, 2009 · 1 comment


Bebo Valdes & Javier Colina: Waltz for Debby

This Bill Evans classic never gets old to my ears. With the beautiful combination of Bebo Valdes's piano and Javier Colina's very expressive and woody bass, "Waltz for Debby" is given the full-on stately treatment. Valdes glides through the introductory passages with grace before Javier Colina steps in to crank up the swing quotient. This does not stop Valdes from tossing out many lightning-fast arpeggios and extended chords that push the energy level without being needlessly flashy. Valdes was in his mid-80s when he recorded this date, and the music shows how the Cuban jazz icon had lost nothing.

January 20, 2009 · 0 comments


Chick Corea & Gary Burton: Waltz for Debby

If you have not yet heard The New Crystal Silence, or have not attended one of their recent duet concerts, you might suppose that after 35 years of playing together, Chick Corea and Gary Burton could not raise their level of performance any higher. You would be wrong. Burton: "The performing we have done over the past year has been our best." Corea: "The tours we've done over the past year are my favorites." From their playing of Corea's tunes with the Sydney (Australia) Symphony Orchestra on the first of their CDs, to their duet selections on the second CD, these live recordings mark a significant milestone in their careers.

Recorded at a small concert hall during the 2007 Molde Jazz Festival, "Waltz for Debby" is given an extraordinary, flawless interpretation. Burton's incisive, quick-tempoed reading of the theme, and his unrestrained yet sharply defined improvisation, gushing with limitless creativity, are awe inspiring. Corea's nuanced support, and his own melodic, dancing solo, balance out this virtuosic, harmonically sophisticated masterpiece. A must hear!

April 22, 2008 · 0 comments


Toots Thielemans: Waltz for Debby

The harmonica may not be the first instrument that comes to mind when someone thinks of jazz. But "Toots" Thielemans's career proves that in the right hands, the harmonica can be just as evocative as any other instrument. Over his long musical run, he's been acknowledged as the finest of all jazz harmonica players. His composition "Bluesette" is one of the all-time great jazz performances. When it came out in 1962, it was a worldwide hit. Who could not fall for its catchy melody and Toots's playful harmonica and whistling skills? His harp has also been famously heard on the soundtrack of Midnight Cowboy and in many Sesame Street episodes. Yet despite his high-profile credits, Thielemans is an icon more among jazz players than jazz fans. So it was not a big surprise to see all of the great contemporary jazz stars that joined him for East Coast West Coast. Among them, in addition to the above-listed, were Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, John Scofield, Lyle Mays, Joshua Redman and others.

This is a tender, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful rendition of Bill Evans's classic. Broadbent's piano intro hints at a sad story to come. But Haden's bouncing bassline and Thielemans's resonant and upbeat harmonica quickly tell another. Erskine skillfully works the brushes to count off this waltz. Violinist Goodman joins in and plays the part of Stéphane Grappelli. (For more of this type of playing from Goodman, please check out the movie soundtrack to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) Thielemans's turn comes around again. He and Goodman trade tasty licks. Broadbent's piano returns to play the coda. Get me another glass of Chardonnay, please.

March 14, 2008 · 0 comments


Eliane Elias: Waltz for Debby

This song is inevitably included on every Bill Evans tribute recording - as familiar as "Round Midnight" when the acolyte followers of Monk gather in homage - and everyone from the Kronos String Quartet to Jean-Yves Thibaudet has dished up a version. But this is not as easy a song to play as might seem from first glance. Yes, the chord changes are not very challenging, and the tempo typically a gentle medium-tempo waltz. No one will get bruised here. But the song demands a certain childlike quality on the part of the performer. The composition was written, after all, for Evans' niece, and evokes the innocence of the nursery. Over-play this song and you kill it. Sometimes even Evans pushed it too hard.

Eliane Elias gets it just right. She starts with a vocal, drawing on Gene Lees' sweet lyrics, and sings the words with absolute fidelity to the spirit of the composition. She takes the opening chorus with just her own piano accompaniment, and when bassist Marc Johnson (a member of Evans' last trio) and drummer Joey Baron enter, they push the energy level up a notch, but not too much. The whole performance is quite graceful, and will remind you why this song became a standard in the first place.

January 29, 2008 · 1 comment


Bill Evans: Waltz for Debby (live version, 1961)

Because of this historic evening of music, “Waltz for Debby” has become one of the most familiar tunes in jazz. Opening the fourth of five sets that June evening in 1961, Bill Evans states the beautiful theme in ¾ time as Scott LaFaro plucks his considered notes on the upright. After a minute, the pace picks up and Paul Motian moves his brushes to action. Another round through the head, and Evans is off, taking his solo well away from the melody but always within the harmonic framework. Motian doesn’t do much more than keeping time, but LaFaro listens intently to Evans and Evans to LaFaro – their ideas synch up so naturally. This is the evening, and perhaps the tune, that would influence generations of pianists.

November 19, 2007 · 0 comments


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