Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

311

Montgomery / Okada / Smith Trio: Bill Evans Songbook Vol. 1

Victor Verney By

Sign in to view read count
In jazz, tribute performances like this one by the Montgomery/Okada/Smith Trio are considerably trickier propositions than those of rock 'n' roll tribute bands. The latter merely call for slavish imitation and are judged by how well they clone the original. In jazz, however, they are judged instead by how successfully an artist brings his or her own vision to the music while staying true to the spirit of the original.

William Montgomery brings both credentials and chops to this Evans homage. The list of illustrious teachers under whom he has studied is itself a veritable who's who of jazz piano. Moreover, he took occasional master classes from Evans himself and as a graduate student played in jazz ensembles directed by Chuck Israels.

In the liner notes, Montgomery recalls having seen Evans' penultimate performances in San Francisco and his disappointment in New York the following week when "it was already too late" to see him again. Montgomery (aka "Monchan") lived in Japan for many years, taught at the prestigious Kunitachi College of Music, and still resides in Kobe part-time. Like Keith Jarrett, Montgomery, born in Germany and now a Seattle native, has found a home away from home in Japan, where this live recording was made on September 15, 1995 to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Evans' death.

Montgomery's introductory passage in "Nardis" has a distinctly Japanese tonality, employing parallel fourths and fifths to create a leitmotif that's both unique and context-appropriate. The Japanese undertones also extend to Montgomery's sidemen—Tsutomu Okada, considered one of Japan's premier bassists, and drummer Jimmie Smith, a long-time expatriate resident of that country.

The trademark Evans spontaneity is respected here. With no studio edits, the recording exactly reflects the concert. Rather than working things out in advance, Montgomery tells us, they played "by the seat of their pants." Sounding a lot like Evans, he writes that "no one was playing it safe, but rather taking risks, allowing the opportunity for the unexpected," resulting in "perhaps a less polished performance, but one that only a live recording in an intimate setting allows."

This recording features a nice range of selections, including some of Evans' less frequently covered tunes. Appropriately enough, the ensemble leads off with "Interplay," a term that refers to a key element of Evans' conception of the piano trio. It features a strong solo by Okada, who shows great touch, tone and taste throughout while never overplaying. "On Green Dolphin Street," "Nardis" and "Interplay" all feature Smith stretching out nicely with solos demonstrating exuberance, subtlety and polish.

Happily, Montgomery also avoids the risk of over-earnest worshipfulness inherent in such projects and does justice to Evans' wit and humor, notably on "One for Helen" and "Five," where he displays a Monk-ish splay-thumbed playfulness. Along with his obvious mastery of Evans' signature riffs and devices, Montgomery's gentle swing, crystalline touch in the high register, and resonant harmonic voicings all testify that he is well qualified to carry on the tradition and spirit of Bill Evans.


Track Listing: Interplay; Only Child; Karen's Mode; Nardis; The Opener; One for Helen; Peri's Scope; On Green Dolphin Street; Five.

Personnel: William Montgomery: piano; Tsutomu Okada: bass; Jimmie Smith: drums.

Title: Bill Evans Songbook Vol. 1 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Contra la indecision CD/LP/Track Review Contra la indecision
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Vessel in Orbit CD/LP/Track Review Vessel in Orbit
by Don Phipps
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Pulse/Quartet CD/LP/Track Review Pulse/Quartet
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 19, 2018
Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Danza Imposible" CD/LP/Track Review Danza Imposible
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 20, 2017
Read "Thick As Thieves" CD/LP/Track Review Thick As Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Liberation Narratives" CD/LP/Track Review Liberation Narratives
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 31, 2017
Read "The Return of Art Pepper" CD/LP/Track Review The Return of Art Pepper
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 8, 2017
Read "Welcome to Swingsville!" CD/LP/Track Review Welcome to Swingsville!
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Jondo" CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017