REVIEW: ‘Turn Out The Stars – The Music of Bill Evans’ – Pinheiro – Ineke – Cavalli

BILL EVANS (1929 – 1980) and the piano. Inextricably connected, or so it would seem. But this new recording from Portuguese guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro, Dutch drummer Eric Ineke and Italian double bassist Massimo Cavalli takes us along different avenues to explore a number of the revered pianist’s creations, alongside works by Michel Legrand and Leonard Bernstein.

Individually, the members of ‘Pinheiro – Ineke – Cavalli’ have built long-ranging careers and discographies – see links below. Together, they share a number of recordings, including 2018’s Triplicity and ensemble releases such as Is Seeing Believing? (a quintet with saxophonist David Liebman and pianist Mário Laginh) and Lisbon Sunset (a collection of jazz, poetry and improvisation with poet Barry Wallenstein, pianist Luís Barrigas and drummer Jorge Moniz).

In truth, guitar encounters with Bill Evans’ catalogue have happened before, including John McLaughlin’s ambient-styled acoustic album of 1993; and Evans recorded with both Kenny Burrell and Jim Hall, the latter in duo albums Undercurrent and Intermodulation. Through the timbres and dynamics available to this particular trio, six of the pianist’s compositions are texturally and rhythmically refashioned in a collaboration that might cursorily be catalogued ‘easy-listening jazz guitar trio’. But, speaking from experience, these are precise interactions which benefit from a greater focus to appreciate their inner workings.

Peri’s Scope launches the main programme of Evans interpretations, the original‘s piano-trio jauntiness translating into a fleet, foursquare expedition that ripples with crisp percussion, fast-walking bass and the lissome extemporisations of guitarist Pinheiro. There’s a similar twist of momentum for Very Early (from Evans’ ‘Moon Beams’ album with Chuck Israels and Paul Motian) where its lazy, hazy demeanour is alternatively painted in lighter, gossamer shades – the sense of ‘conversation’ even more palpable as the trio members share ideas and encourage snippets of arco bass, percussive sparkle and melodic freedom. Perhaps even more interesting is how they convey Interplay (fronted by Freddie Hubbard and Jim Hall in Evans’ bustling early-Sixties recording) as a blithe amble, nevertheless kept on its toes by the crackle of Ineke’s teasing snare offbeats.

It’s difficult to imagine that most enduring of Bill Evans ballads, Waltz for Debby, away from the master’s sublime, mellow pianism – but the trio treat it with reverence, Pinheiro’s elegant chordal shapes carrying it through into a newfound, joyful and almost pirouetting waltz brimming with sprightly extemporisation. Turn Out the Stars (later Evans) and Time Remembered are merged into a ten-minute-plus reading that, depending on your view, either becomes an immersive discovery or can dissolve into the background; either way, its eventual development into freer territory is attractive as Pinheiro’s use of overlaid, sustained effects is matched by bass and drum turbulence.

Bookending the Evans revisitations are two evergreens of stage and screen, once recorded by the pianist – Michel Legrand’s You Must Believe in Spring (from 1967 French movie ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’) and Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Time (from the 1944 musical ‘On the Town’). Divorced from its romantic piano (and orchestral) origins, the Legrand enjoys its unexpected excursion into a Sixties-pop-riff kinda groove; and Bernstein’s sentimental classic – recorded by Tony Bennett and Evansis ‘vocalised’ here by subtly pedalled guitar.

Though completely accessible, it may take a while to get deeper under the skin of Turn Out the Stars – but ‘Pinheiro – Ineke – Cavalli’ have both the integrity and the charm to enable us to catch these classics in refreshing, new light.

Released on 30 April 20211 and available from Challenge Records and Proper Music.

 

Ricardo Pinheiro guitar
Eric Ineke drums
Massimo Cavalli double bass

ricardopinheiro.com
ericineke.com
massimocavalli.com

Challenge Records – CR73523 (2021)

‘Duets’ – Richard Fairhurst & John Taylor

Duets

A TWO-PIANO release already carrying a certain emotional depth – with epitaphs to much-missed jazz musicians Pete Saberton and Kenny Wheeler – acquired an unexpected poignancy when, on 18 July 2015, the sudden death of respected pianist John Taylor was announced. The immeasurable influence of Taylor, both as a musician and a well-loved personality and encourager, has since been well documented in an outpouring of memories, including an affectionate tribute by Simon Purcell and a comprehensive obituary in The Guardian by John Fordham.

The starting point for Duets arose from an invitation to Richard Fairhurst, in 2010, to perform at the Steinway Two Pianos Festival in London. Citing John Taylor as one of his musical heroes (“I first heard JT play when I was a teenager. I bought all his records and listened to them constantly.”), he immediately chose John to duet with, especially as they played together at John’s 70th birthday celebration concert and had also realised that this collaboration had recording potential.

Looking to achieve a contemporary angle, exploring harmony and understatement as well as treading a less beaten track, the project unfolded from the pianists’ initial focus on the music of Bill Evans; and owing much to the fine preparation and recording of the two Steinway Model Ds, Fairhurst and Taylor together created a cohesive account of beauty, intensity, clarity and, at times, remarkable placidity. Indeed, many of these eleven works actually benefit from placing ‘white gallery walls’ between them, the paused isolation providing breathing space to register the detail of each.

A case in point is the sparse, bell-like opening resonance of Epitaph to Sabbo, which evolves into constellatory wonder – and already, any division between the two instruments is almost intangible. Pete Saberton’s own 3 P’s Piece (in two parts) suggests the buoyant ostinato style of Steve Reich, its assertive, hard-wrought melodies contrasting well; and part two’s Ravel-like reflection cannot, it seems, resist in recapitulating to its former, fiendishly difficult animation.

Richard Fairhurst’s Open Book is sweepingly romantic, though also displays melancholic reticence – and the intertwining of themes feels entirely organic. Miniature Epitaph to Kenny finds its effective rhythmic propulsion in manipulated, muted piano strings; and the accentuated tango feel of Wheeler’s Sly Eyes (which John Taylor recorded with the trumpeter on the Moon album with clarinettist Gabriele Mirabassi) becomes gloriously showy in this version, its complexity never over-reaching itself.

The broad landscape of Taylor’s Evans Above is a masterpiece – seven and a half minutes which appear to reflect the creative persona of pianist Bill Evans, with folksy, dancing piano phrases breaking out of its pervading, echoic reflection. And, following on, the three-movement suite of Evans’ music paints his Very Early, Turn out the Stars and Re: Person I Knew in very different hues (and, of course, without rhythm section), whilst retaining that familiar chordal sumptuousness – sixteen minutes which demand repeated listening. To round up, Richard Fairhurst’s Growth in an Old Garden creeps both wistfully and meditatively… and for one final time, the four hands of Fairhurst and Taylor are exquisitely combined.

Released on Basho Records on 7 August 2015, Duets is available from Jazz CDs and all good jazz retailers. The originally-planned launch concert, at London’s Southbank Centre on 9 September 2015, has been sensitively re-imagined as a Jazz Piano Summit in dedication to John, featuring Richard, Michael Wollny, Gwilym Simcock and guests.

 

Richard Fairhurst piano
John Taylor piano

richardfairhurst.com
johntaylorjazz.com

Basho Records – SRCD 49-2 (2015)