Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard
Riverside/Universal Music; Rs. 295 (CD)
Many jazz fans know Bill Evans primarily as the pianist on Miles Davis’s all-time jazz bestseller album, “Kind of Blue”. He was nearly 30 when he worked on that. But more knowledgeable jazz buffs recognise him as one of the greatest
pianists in modern jazz (the be-bop period onwards), one whose technique wasn’t as dazzling as the nimble-fingered Oscar Peterson’s, but whose thoughtful use of rhythm, phrasing, harmony and timing made his music profound and evocative. His greatest work came as a pianist either leading a trio comprising a bassist and a drummer or working solo.
This 1961 album is based on a single day’s work at one of New York’s celebrated jazz clubs, but the tracks are taken from both his afternoon and evening sessions. Scott La Faro on bass and Paul Motian on drums make up Evans’s support. Five of the ten tracks were apparently performed in both sessions, since either “Take 1” or “Take 2” appears in parentheses after the track title. Whether fast, medium-paced or slow, every track carries the introspective feeling that was a hallmark of Evans’s style. This stamp is especially marked on pieces where he starts with a slow-paced solo intro and later speeds up the tempo when the theme and solo improvisations come on. La Faro gets plenty of room for solos, as is characteristic of Evans’s music in contrast to that of some other pianists. Motian also gets in a couple of drum solos. All three discharge their duties, evenly distributed, with distinction. Evans’s famous composition “Waltz for Debby” and Davis’s “Milestones” are most notable, but in fact all the pieces are a delight.
Charles Mingus: Town Hall Concert
Original Jazz Classics/Universal Music; Rs. 295 (CD)
Charles Mingus gave at least two Town Hall concerts. The first, in 1962, had a big band performing new compositions for which the musicians were unprepared. By all accounts a disaster, it was still full of the passion and vibrancy of the extraordinar
y prime mover.
The concert in 1964, containing both of the two long tracks on this album, followed a European tour and reprised music performed on the tour. The personnel supporting the bassist-composer-leader are Johnny Coles, trumpet; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Eric Dolphy, alto sax, bass clarinet and flute; Jaki Byard, piano; and Dannie Richmond, drums. Dolphy, immensely valued by Mingus, plays a stellar role in the music performed here. After his premature death aged 35 a few months later, Mingus renamed both the tracks featured here in his memory.
“So Long Eric”, the first, weighs in at 17-odd minutes, while “Praying with Eric”, the second, lasts 27-odd minutes. Dolphy wields the alto sax on “So Long Eric”, set in a brisk tempo in which Mingus starts off by rendering the theme, solo, before the ensemble enters. Solo improvisations on trumpet, piano and alto sax follow, this last punctuated by a brief interlude with Dolphy and the ensemble alternating in a call-and-response. Mingus next takes a solo and then has some exchanges with Richmond, after which he and Dolphy play a duo improvisation, before the ensemble returns for the theme.
“Praying With Eric” starts slower but speeds up during certain passages. With these variations in tempo and its greater duration, studded with even more solo improvisations by different instruments, it offers a greater palette of sound textures. Besides, Dolphy alternates between bass clarinet and flute on the opening theme and the solos on this track, proving he has equal virtuosity on all three instruments. Mingus too proves his versatility by bowing the bass instead of plucking it on some of his solos during this piece. Byard, Coles and Jordan pitch in with solos, all making this one of the richest tracks and probably the longest on any jazz album I’ve heard.
Send this article to Friends by