By Barry Bassis
Legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans died in 1980 but a live recording made in 1968 was recently discovered. The lavish double CD set, “Bill Evans at the Top of the Gate” (Resonance Records), captures an outstanding performance with Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums. The CDs have pristine sound, thanks to the exceptional engineering of the original performance by George Klabin (who was then a student at Columbia University and head of the jazz department at the college’s radio station). The set contains a 28 page booklet with essays by Nat Hentoff, Gary Burton, Eddie Gomez, Marty Morell, George Klabin and Raphael D’Lugoff, photos and historical documents. The set contains 17 tracks: Emily, Witchcraft, Yesterdays, ‘Round Midnight, My Funny Valentine, California Here I Come, Gone with the Wind, Alfie, Turn Out the Stars, In a Sentimental Mood, Autumn Leaves, Someday My Prince Will Come, Mother of Earl and the first trio version of Here’s That Rainy Day.
The bass player on that 1968 recording (who went on to play with Evans for 11 years) is still going strong, as evidenced by his new CD, “Per Sempre” (For Always). Recorded in Italy during 2009, Eddie Gomez leads a group with pianist Teo Ciavarella, drummer Massimo Manzi, flute player Matt Marvuglio and saxophonist Marco Pignataro. They bring out the leader’s lyrical side, starting with his own lovely composition, “Arianna,” featuring his own solo. Gomez wrote two of the tunes in addition to that one and there are two by Pignataro, and one each from Marvuglio and Ciavarella. The jazz standard, “Stella by Starlight” features some striking sax work by Pignataro.
Jazz in July at the 92nd Street Y will present a concert dedicated to Bill Evans plus a lot more: On July 17: Song & Soul: Freddy Cole & Ernie Andrews; July 18: Time Remembered: The Music of Bill Evans with superb pianists (also husband and wife) Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes; on July 19: An Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Richard Rodgers with Charlap and Barbara Carroll; July 24: Piano Summit with pianists Dick Hyman and Bill Charlap plus Sandy Stewart (Charlap’s mother, with whom he once made a charming album); July 25: Messengers of Jazz: The Legacy of Art Blakey with two drummers Lewis Nash and Kenny Washington plus Charlap and Rosnes; and July 26: Basie Roars Again with Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar and Basie alumnus Frank Wess on tenor sax. The series will also include a jazz piano master class on July 16.
When I first saw the listing of Bela Fleck with Marcus Roberts Trio at the Blue Note Club, I assumed it was a double bill. It turned out that they collaborated on a new album, “Across the Imaginary Divide” (Rounder) and they were kicking off the Blue Note’s jazz festival. They effortlessly cross over from one style to another, sometimes within a single track. I have long considered Fleck the greatest living banjo player and Roberts one of the finest jazz pianists but I never imagined they would mesh so well. The show was made up of numbers from the album and afterward I obtained a copy and never tire of listening to it.
Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson is also a musician I have long admired and I went to the Jazz Standard, to hear him in a terrific group (Brian Lynch on trumpet, Ray Drummond on bass, Jeb Patton on piano and Billy Drummond on drums). They started with a fiery “Billie’s Bounce” that reminded everyone that McPherson had played in the Eastwood bio “Bird.” “Dancing in the Dark” was done in an up-tempo version and Lynch was featured in McPherson’s own “Lonely Little Child” and the standard “Old Folks.” Despite his chronological age (72), the saxophonist plays like one of the young folks.