Eddie Gómez is a legendary master bassist who, among his many affiliations, performed for more than a decade with the immortal pianist Bill Evans. Mark Kramer is a Philadelphia phenomenon, a Renaissance man who has worked not only as a fine musician and recording artist but also has had a career as a prominent physician and pharmacologist.
A few years ago, these long-time friends and musical associates came together to form their own duo (and sometimes trio), doing recordings, live performances and master classes in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere on the circuit. This dynamic duo evokes shades of the Evans and his fabulous bassists, beginning with Scott LaFaro. Gómez eventually replaced LaFaro following the latter's untimely death, which devastated Evans. Gómez thus knows from experience what it means to relate at a deep level of compassion and mutuality with his musical cohorts.
While not billed as such, this duo recording seems like a fitting tribute to Gómez's collaboration with Evans. Romantic to the core in both its selection of standards and its overall feeling, Art of the Heart is also filled with the bittersweet emotion that you encounter when, on a quiet day, you remember the most beautiful experiences and relationships in your life and you know they are gone, but somehow they are with you in the present moment.
Mostly calm and contemplative, this album can bring tears to your eyes, especially during Gómez's bowed bass solos, where he evokes a deep and lyrical range of emotions. His bowing technique reminds us that the basstypically used in jazz for rhythmic backupis part of the string section of the orchestra and a sibling of the violin, viola and cello. (Its full name is the bass viol or bass violin.) I've never heard a jazz bassist play with such otherworldly beauty. Gómez exploits the resonance of the (unmiked) acoustic bass as a kind of deep-register cello.
Kramer's playing complements Gómez and reminds me of Evans' style on a recording of his own composition "I Will Say Goodbye. The sentiment and sound are pure and sweet, and every note is given equal importance. In the liner notes Kramer states that "...the music lays bare a higher source, which animates us. This is a higher energy which conveys special 'states of being' amongst which contain wonder, frailty, pathos, dying, and being reborn. Thus the popular standards that form the basis of this album become sources of contemplation of life, loveand the preciousness of each moment, to which we, like the musicians, must give our utmost care and attention, since it is slipping by just as we hold and treasure it.
All in all, Art of the Heart is a superbly made recording which reveals how much jazz can be the story of our lives and the meanings we find during the quiet hours of "recollection in tranquility.