Corea-Gomez-Motian Play Evans (sort of)
The gig is called “Further Explorations of Bill Evans” and features a trio of Chick Corea on piano, Eddie Gomez on bass, and Paul Motian on drums. The title is a play on Evans’ 1959 album Explorations, which also featured Motian on drums (as did his much-celebrated Village Vanguard sessions, recorded two years later). Gomez was Evans’ bassist from the mid-1960s through mid-‘70s. Corea’s a wilder card, capable of fusing or altering some of Evans’ lyricism with a Latin edge and a free-jazz reach.
So, it could be inspired, could be a mess. Thursday’s late set, which is when I sat in witness, was inspired, plus some. Stunningly good is another way to put it.
The set began with a few minutes’ worth of loose rumblings, jagged cadences, a thicket of tension, but then the fragments coalesced into “Waltz for Debbie,” Evans’ anthem, and the air brightened. But this was no strait-laced Evans tribute; it was a Debbie dancing more loosely in time, the tempo stretched, then tightened, then altered altogether, the rhythm staggered, the harmonies widened and deepened well beyond the original’s chord changes.
Yet neither was this was some exercise in Cubism for its own sake. The music flowed, swung, sizzled, simmered. And so it went for the whole set, which included brief flutterings of “My Foolish Heart,” an ebb-and-cresting “My Ship,” some shards of Monk, and a couple pieces that I didn’t quite recognize but enjoyed very much.
Corea, who’s nearly 70, may be the most insouciant virtuoso in jazz piano; Gomez, 65, flips and spins the bass lines without losing his traction as anchor; and Motian—well, I’ve said enough about Motian in this space: at 79, he’s a magician, somehow subverting and solidifying the rhythm all at once.
It’s a magical mystery trio.