A reviewer is no longer doing a new pianist or the listener any favors (let alone earning his or her keep) by invoking the name of Bill Evans. Yet Israeli pianist Ari Erev all but makes unavoidable some reference to the seminal predecessor by programming two of Evans' compositions and selecting a theme and title that readily bring to mind the influential progenitor's haunting Time Remembered (Milestone, 1963). But all the listener really need be concerned about is the idiomatic, rather than thematic, meaning of Erev's title: About Time. Indeed it's about time that Erev and his trio be given an opportunity to be heard in a cosmopolitan community that can be all too reluctant to expand its horizons beyond a mere handful of perennially favored players.
As becomes clear from the first piece of this 13-song program, Erev is a deliberative, resourceful and purposeful player, certainly not about to waste the listener's time. The opening selection, "Prelude: Anticipation," starts with an immediate two-note motif, which winds its way through a progression of unresolved, primarily augmented harmonies before reaching resolution on a richly consonant major chord. Although a mere 1' 03" it seems shorter in duration (the human perception of time vs. its objective measurement is another of the pianist's expressed themes) because the musical traveler has charted his course with such optimal efficiency. At the mid-point of the program, with "Interlude: Anticipation," he will start and end at the same place, but this time taking a longer, more adventurous route.
Finally, the pianist completes the triadic structure of the program with the thirteenth selection, "Postlude: Turn Out the Stars," the Bill Evans composition that, like the preceding "Prelude" and "Interlude," opens with two pitches, the first again descending by a half step to the second, but this time extended from two notes to two measures. In the course of human experience, the isolated moment increasingly resists chronological measurement, acquiring extension and interpenetration with all other moments, the present representing the sum total of a lifetime of past moments along with an accumulation of ever increasing possibilities for the future.
But this thematic arc should not cause the listener to overlook numerous luminous moments comprising the pattern. Erev's original, "Fading Memories," contains a simple motive that oscillates between a major and minor third, occasionally ("Monkishly"?) sounding the two notes at once, as if to suggest the uncertainty of memory, or the difficulty if not frustration of trying to call the past back into present consciousness.
The pianist excels at playing ballads as well as triple meter, and on Evans' "The Two Lonely People," the two musical forms seem to merge, the 12/8 rhythmic feel initially suggesting a slow ballad in 4 before yielding to a more explicit waltz-like character. Erev's own "Past Desire" is a languourous and lovely meditation that replaces the motivic development of "Fading Memories" with a more lyric, singing melodic strain. The pianist's take on "These Foolish Things" is practically a synchronistic reflection of the recent recording of the tune by the veteran pianist Enrico Pieranunzi (Ballads, C.A.M. Jazz, 2006), the major difference lying in the two players' approaches to closure. (Both recordings capture a lustrous piano sound; give the edge to Erev's in the reproduction of bass and drums.)
Whereas Erev reaches the final tonic chord (Eb major) and simply stops, Pieranunzi's exit is grand opera (albeit drastically scaled down) by comparison: a reprise of the opening four bars (a Red Garland signature device) followed by a deceptive cadence on, first, the dominant chord, then yet another deceiver on the tonic. Erev's leave-taking is unassuming and quiet whereas Pieranunzi's dramatic departure would no doubt leave a lasting impression in itself.
Two of the selections are medium-up 4/4 swingers: Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You" features some of Erev's more flowing work on the session, while Van Heusen's "It Could Happen to You" evokes Bill Evans' arrangement of Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses" by alternating between two different keys even as the tune moves ahead, playing itself out as a single piece. With the "time theme" by now firmly in mind, it's difficult not to associate the musical idea with its philosophical equivalent: as individuals in time, each of us is also apt to discover that time is in us. We may be in the present, yet we can never be totally out of the past. As in a melody, each new note takes us forward in the present even as it contributes to the continual building up of an accompanying, swelling past.
Despite the varied meters and tempos, there is an undeniable elegiac cast about this musical reflection on time, which is a far cry, as should be plainly evident by now, from a mere metrical workout such as Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia, 1959). It's all the more remarkable that Erev's young teammatesbassist Yorai Oron and drummer Gideon Pasahovare so completely in time with the leader, virtually an extension of his wavelength. Oron's solo work, as on "Waltz in G," is less a demarcation from the pianist's than a continuation of the same melodic idea, and Pasahov is the kind of musician who can "imply" a rhythm without italicizing it and disrupting a mood, as on the bossa nova time feel of "Luigi's Muse."
The result is a session that is of a whole (another victory for the CD format), each selection integral with a meditation revealing, ultimately, that music is above all an extended metaphor for time itself.
Tracks: Prelude: Anticipation (Short Version); Fading Memories; Song With No Name; Luigi's Muse; These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); The Two Lonely People; Interlude: Anticipation; Waltz in G; It Could Happen to You; Past Desire; I Remember You; The Policeman's Ballad; Postlude: Turn Out the Stars.
Personnel: Ari Erev: piano; Yorai Oron: bass; Gideon Pasahov: drums.