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Martin Wind: Appreciating Bill Evans

Martin Wind: Appreciating Bill Evans
R.J. DeLuke By

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I always thought that 'Turn Out the Stars' was one of the most amazing songs ever written —Martin Wind
Bassist Martin Wind had already gigged with American jazz musicians prior to moving to New York City in 1996 to advance his musical studies. Though classically trained, Wind is highly versatile, having played in orchestras, small jazz groups, crossing genres on the electric bass prior to departing his native Germany.

Now, years later, he is a well-established player on the New York scene, having performed with stalwarts like Monty Alexander, Pat Metheny, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Toots Thielemans, the Metropole Orchestra, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Phil Woods and more. He's cut albums under his own name and since 2007 he's been leading his own quartet with Scott Robinson on reeds, Bill Cunliffe on piano and Tim Horner on drums.

"It's one of the things I love about being in New York. I get to play with so many different groups," he said during a June weekend in which he was playing a trio gig at the Village Vanguard in New York City with Anat Cohen on reeds and Matt Wilson on drums. (The Vanguard agreed to record some of the music for a future release). Later in the month, he played with pianist Ted Rosenthal, with whom he performed on Rhapsody in Gershwin (Playscape Recordings, 2014), a record on which Rosenthal arranged the entire "Rhapsody in Blue" for trio. He also works frequently with Don Friedman's group, and occasionally with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, where he has filled the bass chair off and on for some time.

"I'm living my dream, playing with all those different groups," he said. Part of Wind's dream is a recording that came out this year, done with a grand orchestra in Europe, as a tribute to the great Bill Evans.

The Martin Wind Quartet, featuring Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, plays Turn Out the Stars; Music written or inspired by Bill Evans on What If? Music. It comes from a live concert of tunes arranged for the orchestra by Wind and performed at Theatro Rossini, Pisaro, Italy, in May 2011. It took some time to make the recording commercially available, but the elegant, thoughtful music can finally be heard.

"I always thought that 'Turn Out the Stars' was one of the most amazing songs ever written," says Wind." I thought that would be a powerful title for the whole project."

Wind says the project idea came about via a friend in Italy who has been producing jazz concerts in the Aconoa region, on the Adriatic Sea. "I was in the beautiful town of Assisi with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra," recalls Wind. "He came over and had lunch with me. During our conversation, he mentioned that he was organizing one concert a season with an orchestra from the region. He suggested that if I had an idea, he would run it by them. I always thought that Bill Evans' music and his style of playing and his romantic approach would lend itself to a project like this ... Bill Evans was very popular in Italy. Fortunately, they were biting."

Selecting the tunes came naturally, he says. "I always wanted to play 'My Foolish Heart' with an orchestra accompaniment. So that was kind of selfish. I always wanted to be a soloist with the strings playing underneath. It was also the first song that pulled me into Bill Evans' world. I can't explain it, but when I heard that for the first time I was in love. That sensitive, beautiful touch and that romantic kind of sad underlying quality. It was just something that hit me."

"I did not only want to do songs that he'd written himself, but songs that were part of his regular repertoire. I've been playing with Don Friedman, who wrote this song for Scott LaFaro [a famed Evans bassist] that I wanted to bring in. Bill Mays once exposed me to 'Goodbye Mr. Evans,' which I think is an incredibly beautiful song by Phil Woods. Joe LaBarbera wrote a song ['Kind of Bill']. You have so many other songs you could perform. But let's start with a few. It's not a double album ... I'm happy about the mix of songs on the album."

The daunting project also sent Wind back to the drawing board to study more about orchestrating.

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