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Piano Trios: At Shelly's Manne-Hole & Timeless

Andrew Velez By

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Bill Evans Trio
At Shelly's Manne-Hole
Riverside/Concord
2006

He's been gone since 1980, over a quarter century. Yet Bill Evans' influence continues to grow. This 1963 session, with Chuck Israels (bass) and Larry Bunker (drums) at Shelly Manne's famed Hollywood club, is like the superb Complete Village Vanguard Recordings 1961 (Riverside, 2005)—an opportunity to savor hearing him captured in a live performance. What's heard here and on the rest of the Manne-Hole sets on Time Remembered (Milestone), as well as on the Vanguard set with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, is Evans in the course of actually redefining what a deeply empathetic trio could sound like. They set a new standard and in the reproduced original liner notes by Israels (who succeeded La Faro in the trio), one gets a sense of what it was like to be a part of that process.

The element of surprise, the moments of brilliance captured in vivo, especially notable here with "'Round Midnight, make for the sudden thrills which even a fine studio recording rarely offers. Evans' blend of dynamic lyricism and accessible, sophisticated playing is gloriously evident here. In his intro, only a few seconds of mounting tension give us just that unexpected jolt before sweeping us into the familiar Monk melody. Overall it's a spare reading, with Bunker's brushes and Israel's beats providing just the right mix of buoyancy and solidity.

A previously unreleased cut, "All The Things You Are, has been added here. Consider it another piece of perfection.


The Don Friedman VIP Trio
Timeless
441 Music
2005

Six years younger than Evans and with a career that has included stints with Ornette Coleman, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Buddy DeFranco and Clark Terry, Friedman has also survived a period of some obscurity. Happily, with Timeless and his other recent well-received recordings, he's come into a well-deserved new prominence.

This set is mostly romantic standards, albeit with fresh approaches. For instance his "Body and Soul is less about suffering than an erotically charged, insouciant hipswayer. On Mancini's "Emily, Friedman manages to depart from and return to the melody just enough to keep things interesting. Receding into the background, he allows John Patitucci and Omar Hakim to heat things up, only to finish with a gentle flourish.

Throughout his career Friedman has played many tunes associated with Evans. Among several here is Evans' own "Turn Out The Stars. Whatever the two may share at times harmonically, here Friedman is still going his own bracingly spare way. The set closes with "'Round Midnight, which makes even clearer the distinction between the two. Friedman's touch is way light, a lightness not to be confused with shallow. Which makes this an intriguing "Midnight, one where matters aren't really so dark after all.


Tracks and Personnel

At Shelly's Manne-Hole

Tracks: Isn't It Romantic; The Boy Next Door; Wonder Why; Swedish Pastry; Our Love Is Here To Stay; 'Round Midnight; Stella By Starlight; Blues in F/Five; All The Things You Are.

Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Chuck Israels: bass; Larry Bunker: drums.

Timeless

Tracks: Alone Together; Star Eyes; Body and Soul; Emily; Turn Out The Stars; What Is This Thing Called Loved; Bouncing With Bud; 'Round Midnight.

Personnel: Don Friedman: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Omar Hakim: drums.


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