It doesn't take more than a minute or two of listening to Art of the Heart
to hear the influence of pianist Bill Evans. Pianist Mark Kramer applies the same lyrical bent towards this project with ex-Evans bassist Eddie Gomezone of the three bassists whose careers are indelibly connected to Evans' trios. This combines for a pleasing series of piano/bass duets that will recall the many duet (and, of course, piano trio albums) made during the 1970s.
Recorded two years ago on Valentine's Day, the album is an appropriate remembrance of Evans and his various groups, and what they brought to small jazz recordings over the decades. The album begins with an homage to the popular music of the late 1950s and early '60s, when quality tunesmiths (eg. Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer) were providing strong melodies that were usually performed by pre-rock 'n' roll singers like Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. (Five early songs that were associated with him are included here.) It seems like a long step backwards into today's musical environment, in which there is virtually no pop music category from which to adapt tunes into a jazz setting. The latest offerings from Beyonce or Radiohead hardly seem like the material to work with (although Brad Mehldau and others might disagree with that statement).
At least half of this album consists of the parts of the Great American Songbook that were written during the 1950s or earlier, and the artists make their point many times over. Gomez plays lots of arco melody statements and solos (both acoustic and bowed) in a startling, dramatic way. When he bows the melody of Henry Mancini's "Moment to Moment" or "Chances Are," the result is a definitive affirmation of melody that's far stronger than what we heard when he performed with Bill Evans several decades ago. On the other hand, Kramer seems like a veritable and bona fide version of Evans as the modal pianist who endeared himself to jazz fans worldwide.
Although the closing track is listed as the standard "I'll Be Seeing You," it swells into an nine-minute version that morphs into Lionel Bart's "Where is Love?"
Personnel: Eddie Gomez: acoustic bass; Mark Kramer: piano.