Sunday, December 27, 2015
THE TONY BENNETT BILL EVANS ALBUM
Nocturnal musings from a basement window of introspection could very well be the overarching theme this week. This precious space when most other humans are comatose allows for the anarchistic laundering of thoughts in seemingly fresher air. Inane chatter coupled with the incessant pinging of devices are thankfully muted. The perfect compliment to this gently unfolding quiet?
Tony Bennett's warm baritone wrapped around the dextrous playing of jazz pianist Bill Evans.
Two very gifted individuals in every respect, their collaboration is filled with many rewarding moments for the listener. Opting to record solo voice and piano is pretty daunting from the perspective of any singer as every note is under scrutiny. Poor phrasing or awkward pitch are easily exposed, without the coverage of other instruments. Working without a net, Bennett steps up to every song with confidence and cool, delving deeper into his artistry in the process. When this record first appeared in 1975, unheralded, its contents were very much out of step with contemporary noises, likely puzzling anyone who had not spent time in the confines of a smoky jazz club. Song selection along with arrangements were reportedly worked out during the sessions, with no prior preparation. Impressively, the duo ran through each tune a few times before deciding that they had a final take.
Evans approached the material with delicate brilliance, supporting Bennett tastefully as he sang, generous in leaving space for his vocals to soar. When he did stretch out to take solos, he became an orchestra, lifting the compositions to greater heights. Their choices all tend toward softer, downbeat jazz standards ("Waltz for Debby" being the lone piece composed by Evans), though this is quite a strong set. Very easy on the ear, it is highly recommended to be enjoyed under a purple sky, in close proximity to ocean currents with your favourite libation. Recognizing an undeniable chemistry, they teamed up to produce a second LP in 1977 (Together Again), though Evans passed away in 1980, sadly precluding the revival of this inspired pairing. Simply a masterclass in sheer technique all around.