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A Tribute To Bill Evans

Gramola 99087




  1. Turn Out The Stats

  2. Very Early

  3. Erna

  4. B Minor Waltz/For Ellaine

  5. Twelve Tone Tune

  6. Tom's Tune

  7. Laurie & Re: Person I Knew

  8. The Forgotten Eb

  9. Sol y Ron

  10. Time Remembered

  11. Twelve Tone Tune

    Monika Lang - Piano

    Uli Langthaler - Double bass

    Wolfgang Reisinger - Drums

    Over the years since the death of pianist/composer Bill Evans in 1980, at the age of only 51, a number of musical tributes to his legacy have appeared. The latest is by the Austrian group, the Monika Lang Trio. Dedicated to the memory of Lang's mother-in-law, Anni, the album draws together four Lang originals, alongside eight Evans tunes. On two occasions, the trio combine a couple of Evans melodies on one track and Twelve Tone Tune features twice, one of them a solo version by Lang. It can be argued, of course, that Bill Evans' lasting influence has been in a particular style of playing but this disc gives the listener the chance to hear again some of his best writing, albeit not performed by the maestro himself. However, they are certainly played in his style and spirit. Monika Lang, formerly Monika Etzelt, brings to the challenge classical training and experience in chamber music as well as jazz. Her compatriots have both paid their dues as jazz musicians, in fact Reisinger pretty well qualifies as a veteran.

    An attempt has been made to select material from different phases of Evans' life and career. Two of Evans' strongest pieces open the album. Turn Out The Stars is given a slightly Baroque opening before expanding into a lyrical (what else?) exploration of this classic. There's a useful bass solo, too. Very Early, for me, is the best track on the disc. The lilting melody is treated with affection. Lang shows her quality with a graceful and flowing performance, supported ably by her fellow musicians. On a couple of occasions, a personal context of memory and/or loss is drawn upon by Monika Lang in her compositions and placed alongside what she sees as similar emotions expressed in Bill Evans' writing. For instance, she regards Tom's Tune as her equivalent to Re: The Person I Knew which recalls in music a producer friend of Bill's. B Minor Waltz, which Evans dedicated to Ellaine, his girl friend who, sadly, had taken her own life, is linked with Erna, a close friend of Lang's who died of cancer. Apart from this perceived hinterland, what the pieces do have in common on this recording is an accessability and, especially with regard to the Evans tracks, a pensive charm. Tom's Tune is actually distinguished by a more vigorous and uptempo approach. That characteristic is also evident in Lang's Sol y Ron where there are spirited contributions all round. The Forgotten Eb illustrates well the group's overall cohesion. Of the two versions of Twelve Tone Tune on the album, I preferred Lang's solo foray. Nevertheless, it was always going to be difficult to match Evans on his own composition, particularly since the recording I have of the number is over twice the length of Monika's solo performance, and had the added bonus of the formidable Eddie Gomez. The remaining track, Time Remembered swings along nicely and the bass solo impresses.

    This album successfully captures the affirmative nature of Bill Evans' writing as well as some of his signature lyricism and the emotional charge his music carried. I would have liked to have heard the group's take on Waltz For Debbie, Peace Piece or Interplay, all of which would have been worthy of inclusion, but you can't have everything. As well as the Evans tribute element, this CD also provides a taster of Monika Lang's ability as composer and introduces a talented trio to a wider audience. In addition it may send listeners back to Bill Evans' original recordings and that can't be bad.

    James Poore


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