Chick Corea / Eddie Gomez / Paul Motian

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Although there really hasn't been another pianist quite like Bill Evans since his untimely death in 1980, Chick Corea was probably the one best suited to make this fine and heartfelt tribute album. Corea does several things especially well here: first, he wisely chose two of Evans' most celebrated sidemen (bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Paul Motian) to join him for the trio date. Second, he does an excellent job of invoking Evans' musical spirit without giving in to the temptation to slavishly imitate his distinctive playing style. And third, he mixes up the program nicely, including the bop classic "Hot House," Thelonious Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie," and original compositions by each member of the trio, alongside such necessary Evans and Evans-associated standards as "Gloria's Step" and "Alice in Wonderland." The combination of a sprawling two-disc configuration and the live setting (the album was recorded over the course of a two-week stint at the Blue Note in New York) means that there's plenty of room for everyone to stretch out, which doesn't always yield dividends: no matter how impressionistic it got, Evans' playing never seemed aimless, but Corea's sometimes does on tracks like "Rhapsody" and the Motian composition "Mode VI." Still, Corea's aimlessness is always highly listenable, and at its best (which is most of the time), the trio is both tight and thrillingly free; their take on "Hot House," in particular, demonstrates an admirable ability to balance boppish rigor with creative expansiveness. This is a beautiful and loving tribute to one of jazz music's great tragic genuises.

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