The French Naive record label, long known for its fine releases of classical musicparticularly its ongoing Vivaldi Opera projecthas initiated a jazz stream, highlighting French jazz talent, including pianist Manuel Rocheman's The Touch of Your Lips: Tribute to Bill Evans
. It is somehow fitting that a tribute to America's last great pioneer in jazz piano (apologies to Cecil Taylor
) comes from the land of the Impressionists. Bill Evans
, more than any other pianistnot John Lewis
, not Jacques Loussier
, not even the great Art Tatum
elevated jazz piano to a chamber art. His music, particularly that performed close to his 1980 death, was characterized by a fragile intensity, a phenomenon so friable, that the pianist's performance threatened to dissolve at any moment, like a smoke ring in the wind.
Rocheman, in his tribute, adds a quickening support to Evans' art like scaffolding buttressing an ancient sculpture that better allows for the ethereal to gain substance, to be seen and heard. Few pianists could pull off the high-wire act that was Bill Evans, and Rocheman does not even attempt to. Instead, he provides definition, darkening the lines of Evans' thought, making a clearer picture. The Johnny Mandel melody of "Suicide is Painless," from the 1970 movie M*A*S*H
, demonstrates Evans' visions in its Red Garland
block chords and modern bass-drums support. Here, Rocheman solos confidently, with tart punctuation and comment on the higher harmony of the composition.
The Evans' composition "We Will Meet Again" from the pianist's last studio recording of the same title (Warner Brothers, 1979), offers the scent of Evans' 1961 Village Vanguard trio in Mathias Allamane
's bass solo. Allamane surfaces from the impressionistic somnolence with a musing, flat in tone that takes off on the perpendicular to Rochemann's direction. This is the most potent presence of the spirit of Scott LaFaro
on the disc, one that is gratefully not overplayed. "Daniel's Waltz" lilts with a swinging ferocity that does not draw attention abruptly; rather, revealing itself like an intellectual connection being made, when things become clearer.
Bill Evans is justly a hard musical target. His influence is like an apparition barely seen but registered nevertheless. Rocheman and his trio turn up the musical sensitivity on Evans so that he may been seen with greater clarity without losing any of the mystery that was that pianist's certain specialty.