Richie Beirach was a friend of Bill Evans, so it was only natural that he would do a record dedicated to him following Evans' sad and sudden death in 1980. Beirach has a similar gift for interplay with his rhythm section, and the participation of bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster makes for a superb trio. Even though both the leader and the bassist professed a love for the work of the early Evans trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, if anything, this group suggests closer ties to Evans' later trio with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell. Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" has been a favorite of many musicians. Beirach chooses an uptempo approach, with its centerpiece being a long but effective bass solo by Mraz. "Blue in Green," first recorded on the historic Kind of Blue LP (with authorship individually claimed by both Miles Davis and Evans), starts in a fragile mode but quickly is diverted into a more abstract setting. Beirach sustains the melancholy mood of "Spring Is Here" during his solo, but turns it into a celebration as Mraz and Foster join him. "Peace Piece," Evans' brilliant improvisation based upon Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time," is an extended interpretation, played unaccompanied, as did Evans. Evans performed and recorded Miles Davis' "Nardis" on so many occasions that he is often given composer credit. Beirach's arrangement of this modal masterpiece finds a different way to build and release the tension that Evans brought to every performance. But Beirach seems to add a touch of humor with a well-disguised quote from the musical The King and I. Originally recorded for Trio in Japan, this album was only briefly available in the U.S. on Palo Alto before it abruptly ceased operations, so snap it up without hesitation if you run across it.
Elegy for Bill Evans Review
by Ken Dryden