Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Evans Feeling

The great pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli once said "Bill Evans would be an ideal interpreter of the music of Gabriel Fauré." Evans had a solid classical education in his early years, and it would have been exciting to hear what the mature artist would have done with Debussy, Chopin, Bach. Glenn Gould called Evans "the Scriabin of jazz." There's something exciting about a great jazz artist bringing skills from outside the classical box without going as far as "jazzing things up", as when Keith Jarrett plays (so beautifully) Shostakovich or Bach.

Apparently Evans admired Michelangeli in return, and perhaps even more than hearing Evans play classical music, I'd love to hear the Italian master riff on some Evans tunes. It's coming up to 35 years since Bill Evans died, and he's attained his own master status. It's only natural for today's musicians, jazz or classical, to re-interpret the classics; they're expressing their love and perhaps hoping to catch some of the magic. It's one thing when there are new textures and sounds - the Kronos Quartet's 1985 album Music of Bill Evans added those, while benefitting from the solid jazz anchors of bassist Eddie Gomez or guitarist Jim Hall. But when it's a solo piano or a piano-bass-drums trio, you have to ask yourself, to be crass, what value is being added, especially on disc rather than in live performance. Why am I listening to this rather than to the many albums of Bill Evans himself, or his Trio?

In Monika Lang's case, it begins with her own classical training. It also involves bringing what she called "the Evans feeling" to her own compositions, four of which are included on this album. Then she works with drummer Wolfgang Reisinger and bassist Uli Langthaler in the style of the classical analogue of the jazz ensemble, the chamber group. As to the Bill Evans pieces, they've been chosen to represent different periods in his career, in a kind of musical biography. They're played more or less straight, and rather carefully, maybe too reverentially, while the group seems to have more fun in the Lang compositions. It's a bit of a disappointment to realize that there's more of "the Evans feeling" in the Lang numbers than the Evans ones. This disc is a creditable effort, but not up to the standard Eliane Elias set in 2008 with her lovely disc Something for You: Eliane Elias sings and plays Bill Evans.

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