Allan Harris & Takana Miyamoto: Convergence
Love Production Records
A nostalgic trend that has gained traction in the last decade is that of bands (generally jam bands) performing "classic" rock albums live in their entirety, typically on Halloween or New Year's Eve. Some of the more notable examples of this include Phish's recent covers of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (Self Produced, 2009), Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus (Self Produced, 2010), and Gov't Mule's covers of Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy (Self Produced, 2008) and Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Live Downloads, 2012). Not to be outdone, the Allman Brothers Band reprised its own At Fillmore East on the 40th anniversary of its recording (Munckmix, 2011).
This baby-boomer nostalgic phenomenon proves not restricted to popular music. The past several years has seen several notable jazz recordings honored by younger artists, including Karrin Allyson's Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane (Concord, 2001), Phil Woods' Groovin' to Marty Paich (Jazzed Media, 2005) and Bill Cunliff's Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 (Resonance Records, 2008). These were all excellent recreations, extensions and homages to great recordings, carefully rendered with all the necessary attention to detail and improvisation.
Now pianist Takana Miyamoto and vocalist Allan Harris chose another great artifact to honor, that of the famous Bill Evans and Tony Bennett piano/vocal recordings made June 10-13, 1975 and eventually released as The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (Fantasy, 1975) and Together Again (Improv, 1977). With the passage of time and the revisionist history experienced by Tony Bennett's reputation in the last 20 years, the social and artistic value of these recordings has skyrocketed into an almost mythic state...and properly so. Bennett represents the last of standards interpreters of the level of, well, there is only one, Frank Sinatra. Like Johnny Carson did with late night television, when Bennett goes to his great reward, he will take standards singing as we know it with him.
The same may be said of Bill Evans, whose impressionistic and introspective treatments became a school of jazz piano in themselves after his death in 1980. A true tone poet, Evans provided Bennett with a sensitive accompanist who was artistically equal in all ways. Today, these recordings are seen as two masters practicing their craft at a rarefied level. With that said, this corpus of music is ripe for reinterpretation in the guise of homage/reconsideration.
To be sure, Miyamoto is not Bill Evans and Harris is not Tony Bennett, as neither need be. Miyamoto is a much more deliberate and grounded pianist, more than capable but not interested in being merely imitative. Harris has a pleasant and durable voice devoid of most of the imperfections that would make him unique. While Harris is not satisfied to simply imitate Bennett, he can recall the veteran singer potently in his endings, as he does in the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke ballad "But Beautiful," where Bennett's expansive coda is one of the hallmarks of his talent. Harris does the song proud, singing with a muscular compassion that recalls Bennett fondly. Miyamoto's playing is within the lines and lyrical, not quite conservative, but enough so to never lose or challenge the listener.
The same may be said for "My Foolish Heart" and "Young and Foolish," the fulcrum pieces on The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album. Delicate and expressive, Miyamoto sets these songs up for exceptional vocal treatments by Harris. The two relate empathically to produce this easily enjoyed recording inspired by a classic.
Tracks: My Foolish Heart; Days of Wine and Roses; But Beautiful; Waltz for Debby; You Don't Know What Love Is; Young and Foolish; The Touch of Your Lips; You Must Believe in Spring; Some Other Time; We'll Be Together Again.
Personnel: Allan Harris: vocals; Takana Miyamoto: piano.