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Pianist Kevin Hays and long-time collaborators Doug Weiss (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums) explore a set of jazz and pop classics on You've Got a Friend, a well-conceived piano trio affair.
The Carol King-penned title track and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" begin the disc with a laid-back gospel vibe, tranquil and unhurried. Hays approaches these pop classics with just the right amount of lyricism, being faithful to the essence of each tune while happily avoiding the temptation to drift into overbearing melodrama. The same could be said of Weiss' reading of the melody on "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Here, the bassist opts for the lower register and executes wonderfully with impeccable intonation and matter-of-fact phrasing.
A more adventurous spirit is exhibited on "Fool on the Hill" with Hays steering the Paul McCartney piece off course somewhat, harmonically and rhythmically. The trio really begins to light up on Thelonious Monk's "Think of One," swinging hard and delivering an intuitive back-and-forth, especially between Hays and Stewart. Hays' impressionistic arrangement of "Sweet and Lovely" finds the trio pondering the tune's potential through a lengthy introduction. When the groove finally kicks in, Hays proceeds to develop a lengthy weave of inventive ideas.
Bob Dorough's "Nothing Like You" and a fun reworking of Charlie Parker's "Cheryl" end the disc with hints of bebop, gospel and a thrilling twist of intensity. All in all, Hays and company deliver a satisfying trio set with an uninhibited approach to choice material.
Track Listing: You've Got a Friend; Bridge Over Troubled Water; Fool On the Hill; Think of One; Sweet and Lovely; Nothing Like You; Cheryl.
Personnel: Kevin Hays: piano; Doug Weiss: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.