Eddie Gomez And Mark Kramer: Jazz Fiddler On The Roof (2004)
It's the original composer's favorite jazz rendition. It features Eddie Gomez. How can you go wrong?
Well, maybe if your ideal treatment of "Fiddler On The Roof" is Cannonball Adderley's hard bopping tack on sax or a various artists avant-garde compilation that left purists shuddering. But for a largely mellow jazz trio collection that is more embellishment than reinvention, this is the place to be.
Jazz Fiddler On The Roof, featuring twelve pieces from the Broadway hit, is still more jazz than soundtrack, featuring the smooth-as-silk lyricism reminiscent of Gomez's years with piano legend Bill Evans during the 1970s. He plays his typically busy and well-developed lines as well here as anything he's done recentlyin many ways it's an ideal setting for him.
There is, simply due to the nature of Broadway, a fair amount of similar-sounding simple material. Gomez shows his safe and indulgent intents early. "If I Were A Rich Man" opens with the bassist bowing lead lines straight, then shifts to a fairly safe jazz ballad backing and solos that play heavily off melodic embellishment by pianist Mark Kramer and Gomez (who is a bit busier as he builds off a very effective vamp by Kramer). "Tradition" is an early delight as the song, while recognizable, is played with a klezmer approach. Gomez doesn't wander this far astray often during the rest of the album; it's hard to decide if this is a drawback or not, given how well they treat the more straightforward material.
"To Life" is a somber gem, with Gomez alternating between plucking and bowing, backed by Kramer alternating electronic and acoustic keys. Their sense when to mix what instruments is outstanding, but what really makes it work is how they maintain their seemingly effortless conversation during the switches.
The mood gets a lift on the up-tempo swing of "To Life" and "Miracle of Miracles." The former's a bit more complex and intellectual in its tone and rhythm; by the time the latter arrives a couple songs later, it gets a rather simplistic and whimsical treatment that actually makes for a nice change of pace.
It's inevitable to not make comparisons to Evans when listening to Kramer, but he's also got a fair amount of Vince Guaraldi-like appeal in his ability to snag listeners with familar-yet-different melodies. Drummer John Mosemann turns in a first-rate effort with some interesting percussion hits mixed into his backings, but much of it may go unappreciated since he gets almost no time at center stage.
The soundtrack is obviously a better Broadway album, and Adderley's sextet album, reissued in 2003, might be the best pure jazz treatment for listeners who don't need the material to stay comfortingly familiar. But Gomez might have the best all-around "interpretative" album when it comes to pleasing both crowds, with an effort likely to please nearly everyone and disappoint few.
Track Listing: Prologue; If I Were A Rich Man; Tradition; Do You Love Me?; Anatevka; Sunrise Sunset; To Life; Sabbath Prayer; Matchmaker; Miracle Of Miracles; Far From The Home I Love; Epilogue
Personnel: Eddie Gomez, bass; Mark Kramer, piano; John Mosemann, drums