Eddie Costa: Guys and Dolls Love Jazz

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In retrospect it's hard to see how or why this record was made in the days before CD's as calling cards. Eddie Costa had little name recognition, and what fame he enjoyed was on piano, his primary instrument. The material—cute boy-meets-girl tunes written in subservience to 1950's-clever lyrics—does not lend itself to jazz interpretation. [A couple of the songs have since become standards after being overhauled by Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson.] Costa as a sometime studio musician probably had some inside contacts. Whatever, some memorable music was created.

In a sense this session invites comparison with Pike's Peak (CBS, reissued in1989), another piano-vibes quartet with Bill Evans from the same period. One of Dave Pike's best records, Pike's Peak would seem to have the advantage with more jazzical material and a better bassist, but Dave Pike's repetitive, drum-oriented concept does not stand up to Costa's overall depth.

Costa had a nervous energy with sudden stops and starts that somehow translated into an overwhelming swing. With Dave McKenna he shared the tendency to rumble around in the lowest register, building up tension before rocketing into a spontaneously created melody.

To my knowledge Evans and Costa had not worked together much before this record. Even so their rapport is right there, mainly due to Evans' uncanny ability to accompany. Evans demands equal if not greater interest not only for what he was to become but for what he already was. Coming out of a hard swing, Bud Powell rhythmic feel he breaks it up his own way on "If I Were a Bell." His lovely reharmonization of "I've Never Been in Love Before" would be a career highlight for most pianists, but it was nothing special for him. He probably never played the tune again. The best cut is "Luck be a Lady" over a 6/8 Horace Silver Latin vamp (The bridge is in 4/4.) with scorching solos by Costa and Evans.

The recording quality (late mono) is not bad, except the bass is mixed down.

Track Listing: Guys and Dolls; Adelaide; If I Were a Bell; Luck Be a Lady; I've Never Been in Love Before; I'll Know.

Personnel: Eddie Costa - vibes; Bill Evans - piano; Wendell Marshall - bass; Paul Motian - drums.

Record Label: Verve Music Group

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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