Scott LaFaro: Pieces of Jade (2009)
In his brief career between 1959 and 1961, Scott LaFaro may have done as much to revolutionize the way the bass is played in jazz as Jimmy Blanton, another gifted and tragic figure, had with Duke Ellington 20 years before him. Like Blanton, LaFaro only took up the bass when he entered college and also died very young: Blanton of tuberculosis at 23 in 1942; LaFaro at 25 in a car accident in 1961.
LaFaro recognized no limitations and played bass with a virtuosity and invention that made him the equal of any musician with whom he ever worked. The fluid melodic counterlines and harmonic invention he brought to Bill Evans revolutionized the piano trio, while the dense, exploratory dialogue he brought to the Ornette Coleman Quartet fueled the progress of another stream of bass playing. Coleman titled a tune "The Artistry of Scott LaFaro," and LaFaro's influence is felt in both directions to this day.
This is the first recording released under LaFaro's name and it provides useful insights into the bassist's talent through several varied recordings. First up are five tracks by a highly interactive trio with pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca from 1961, almost an LP's worth of material that includes dynamic versions of standards "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "Green Dolphin Street," a fiery version of "Woody 'n' You" and two takes of Friedman's medium tempo "Sacre Bleu," which demonstrate the warm lilt and sudden flaring creativity that LaFaro combined.
There's also a 23-minute tape of LaFaro rehearsing "My Foolish Heart" with Bill Evans, the two looking at different segments of the tune and discussing their approach to its phrasing and harmony. An interview segment with Evans from 1966 has him reflecting on LaFaro's tremendous contribution to the trio as well as his personality. Then there's a 1985 recording by Friedman of an original called "Memories of Scotty." It all combines for a fitting tribute to an essential musician, a complement to the masterpieces LaFaro created with Evans on Waltz for Debby (Riverside, 1961) and Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961), and Coleman on Free Jazz (Atlantic, 1960) and Ornette! (Atlantic, 1961).
Track Listing: I Hear A Rhapsody; Sacre Bleu (take 1); Green Dolphin Street; Sacre Bleu (take 2); Woody'n You; My Foolish Heart (Rehearsal Tape: Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro; Interview with Bill Evans by George Klabin; Memories for Scotty.
Personnel: Don Friedman: piano; Scott LaFaro: bass; Pete LaRoca: drums; Bill Evans: piano (6-8).