Jazz Played for Lovers
Along with a trio reading of "Like Someone in Love (with just bass and drums), this compilation divides evenly into four quartet and four quintet tracks. Pianist Red Garland appears on seven, and bassist Paul Chambers appears on eight, of the nine tracks; a rotating cast of some of the best drummers in jazz, including Arthur Taylor and Jimmy Cobb, help complete these ensembles.
The languid, softly-rocking "Slow Dance is probably this set's prettiest music, cut with the same cast as the opening, luxurious "I Want To Talk About You - the 'Trane, Chambers, Garland Taylor quartet. Perhaps its most noteworthy selection is the epic (13:53) quintet take of Billy Strayhorn's classic "Lush Life, where the rock-solid Garland sparkles with streamlined, playful Basie-styled blue piano funk, and Donald Byrd's trumpet solo flashes a brilliant indicator of the jazz heights he could reach.
In "Invitation, Coltrane plays strong and inquisitive, yet somehow his searing edge has been rounded off, his tenor sax more a tiger on the prowl than a tiger coiled and snarled in attack. If Plays for Lovers might seem tame, remember that you're comparing these love songs to the extraordinary, impossible standard of Coltrane's more revolutionary work.
Plays for Lovers
He may be better known (or, if you prefer, more notorious) for his jazz experiments with funk, rock, R&B, and their associated electronic accoutrements, but never forget that Miles Davis was a master of romantic ballads, especially played with a Harmon mute on his trumpet. Like the Coltrane set, this ballad collection shows how to play soft, not weak, and how to play jazz smoothly without turning the music into homogenized froth.
Most of these songs feature Davis with his first great quintet (Coltrane, Garland, Chambers and Philly Joe Jones). They slow burn the groove in "Just Squeeze Me and sketch "When I Fall in Love in Davis' trademark stark treatment, not playing every note in the melody exactly, more or less connecting blue velvet dots to surround the melody instead.
This compilation also features the rare sound of Charles Mingus on piano, alongside Percy Heath and Max Roach in the rhythm section for the sophisticated blue glide "Smooch.
Surprisingly, Coltrane sits out of the two of the best tracks (or maybe it is not so surprisingly, since Davis was always a master of musical space). Garland never played more beautifully than in the rippling accompaniment he splashes throughout one of these two, "It Never Entered My Mind.
This set opens with the other, most likely the definitive instrumental version of "My Funny Valentine, a musical heartache for your ears. No disrespect intended to any other musician who also covered this song (including and especially the aforementioned Chet Baker), but after Miles cut this version of "My Funny Valentine they should have retired the number...
Plays for Lovers
Evans' sparse, austere piano style was rarely called romantic but almost always called beautiful. This new collection comes from tracks he recorded as a leader between 1956 - '63, considered Evans' golden era. During this period, he also played a major role in Miles Davis' masterpiece Kind of Blue, for example, from which he here reprises Davis' "Blue in Green.
The whole sounds like one single piece of exquisitely refined beautiful music, a luxurious sheet of single musical satin spun with no apparent seams between compositions. Except for Evans' solo "Easy to Love, where the melody notes from his right hand bounce against the chords laid down by his left like kernels in a popcorn machine, this compilation presents the pianist in his most famously effective format, the piano trio. Six of these trio tracks draw from his work with his exceptionally sympathetic group with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian; the others feature Sam Jones and Philly Joe Jones among their supporting casts.
Everything about Evans' playing sounds nearly perfect: His placement of the notes, his impeccable timing, their shifting dynamics between loud and soft, the supporting harmonies...even the spaces IN BETWEEN the notes seem brilliant!
Plays for Lovers
If Stan Getz' tenor saxophone had a human voice, you'd expect it to come out sounding like Mel Torme's: Full but not heavy, warm and soft, supple yet strong like leather, familiar but not too badly worn...a classic sound. Unlike Evans, Getz' name IS frequently mentioned when discussing the most romantic players on his instrument. Small wonder: Getz's own contributions to musical romance plus his lead role in the movement that helped introduce the world to Brazilian bossa nova will endure forever. This compilation features his breathless tenor from recordings for the Concord, Fantasy, Prestige, and Milestone labels.