Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here's Something For You

Sorry about the infrequency of posts to this blog - I had some personal issues that needed resolve.

Below is a review I wrote some months ago. Eliane and Marc have done a remarkable thing with this recording, taking a tune a tune that was definitely a work in progress and transcribed it, written lyrics for, and recorded it and released it to the public. It will probably end up as one of those back-of-the-binCDs in the Eliane Elias library that will be something of value for Bill Evans fans but not holding any interest for the Eliane Elias fan. I still go round and round in a bipolar way in my affection for it and distaste of the obvious bravura it took to produce. As time goes by this might be resolved but I doubt it. It will always be something to listen to and attempt to work out.

"Here's Something For You"
Eliane Elias, piano
Marc Johnson, bass
Joey Baron, drums
Blue Note records

At first I was very excited by this album. I guess I've listened to maybe 25 different tribute albums dedicated to Bill and this one tops them all in the category of bringing new things to see the light of day. Some players just go through the motions of reading through Bill's tunes, or the standards associated with Bill, unable to distill from themselves, that rich essence of reaching into one's self and looking for that specialness that we all recognise as Bill Evans. Some of the best that I have heard include those by John McLaughlin,Egil Kapstadt, The Danish radio Jazz orchestra/Jim McNeely, Richie Beirach, Warren Bernhart, Enrico Pieranunzi , and French singer Elene Dee. One of my favorites is guitarist Harold Alden's tribute, "Your Story" on Concord records, a player and label you wouldn't normally associate with Bill Evans type music. Then there are several players who I hope will someday, make Bill Evans tributes, like bassist RayDrummond who loves Bill's music. All of the afore mentioned need to listen to this new Eliane Elias CD. She, with the help of husband Marc Johnson have set a different standard.

On first hearing the CD does not seem to be that adventurous, due to the short track length, set by Eliane. There is a review in All About Jazz stating that the title tune is from a tape that Bill gave Marc containing some new tunes he was working on. The last track of the album titled "Introduction ..." starts with this track, the original cassette tape. As you listen to the track play you can hear Eliane take over from Bill, playing the melody of the tune and adding a few of the lyrics. The tape that Marc gave to Eliane might be from the Bill's 50th birth day party. The complete version with all lyrics is the second track of the CD. This re-enforces the intent of Eliane to cater to radio stations air play standards, at least older radio air play standards - no long tunes and the first tune of the CD being up-tempo.

The title tune is something that Bill was developing at the end of his life. For years I always thought it was just pianistic meanderings on the first part of the melody of "Who Can I turn To," but it was a real tune that Bill was working on. It also appears on the tape circulating of Bill playing at EdSteinberg's home, probably in New York before a gig in March of 1980, as the last tune Bill plays. He introduces on the tape, "here is something I'm gonna play for you, it's sorta show-like." I have guessed that Mrs.Steinberg, or some lady friend of Dr. Ed Steinberg payed Bill to come play for her. The tape is marred by Dr. Steinberg making and taking phone calls in the background. One of the calls is for Bill, to call back the person when he gets home - that's why I think it's in the NYC area.

Marc Johnson gets a chance to stretch out on the tune "But Not For Me." If you want to see Eliane playing the title tune can go to this YouTube post. Marc is also playing Scotty's LaFaro's bass as rebuilt by bass luthier, Barrie Kolstein, on one tune, the ballad "My Foolish Heart" (perhaps more tracks - we need to ask Marc about that.) It is great to hear Scotty's bass again, played by Marc. Marc treated this project with respect and love.

Jazz set at Scullers
Eliane Elias Trio
Marc Johnson - bass
Ronnie Hart - drums
(Ronnie live in Boston as was called for the dates as he worked with Marc before with Stan Getz. Elaine does not carry a drummer with the group. Hearing Ronnie play here makes me wonder if he ever listened to Eliane or Bill Evans for that matter. He pretty much bashed ahead with no regard for group dynamics.

Eliane and Marc were selling and signing the featured CD after each set. Eliane says in the liner notes to the "Here's Something for You", "I had the choice to do long improvisations of fewer tunes or bring more songs to the record with enough soloing to bring them to life." Well, that just did not work - no "life" for the most part. I don't thinkEliane has the chops to play much more than the head or initial statement of the melody, one or two short improvised choruses with no real chops or purpose to explore the tune, filled with the same simple devices she uses in all her playing, then their might be a short bass solo, the head again, and out. Her lack of ability was verified when playing in a live club scene where there are no time limit restrictions. Her playing live is just like the recordings, short and filled with cliches whereas there is plenty of time for one of Marc's extended bass solos which he does so well, such as what he played on the tuneDesifinado" at the end of the first set.

As far as what she did regarding taking what might have been Bill's last compositions, transcribing it, adding lyrics that are sensitive to what Bill brought us - this is a great thing. It serves very well as a tribute album, just not a jazz album in any sense of what Bill gave us.

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