When this trio's performance, captured live in New York, clicks it is utterly magnificent.
Alyn Shipton 2012-01-19
For two weeks in May 2010 Chick Corea brought this trio into the Blue Note club in New York with the express intention of investigating and extending the trio repertoire established by the late Bill Evans. Paul Motian having been in Evans’ first great trio and Eddie Gomez a member of a subsequent edition for 11 years from 1966, they were well-qualified for the task. The results, distilled from 24 sets of 90 minutes apiece, are nevertheless a slightly mixed bag - and in the case of the opening Peri’s Scope, which over-favours the drums, oddly mixed in the technical sense.
It is interesting that Motian was the most experimental musician in the trio, the same reactive instincts and sense of timbral colour pervading his playing as had been the case in the 1960s. Gomez has settled for a more comfortable role than that of yore, his buzzing wasp of an upper register bass sound having given way to a more stately hornet (and then only sporadically). His intonation is slightly suspect in the double-stopped opening to Alice in Wonderland, and the bowed opening to Turn Out the Stars is somewhat eccentric.
Yet when the trio clicks it is utterly magnificent. A version of Bill Evans’ ballad Laurie is a marvellous three-way conversation, with Gomez flying out of the ensemble with aggressive phrases that interweave with Corea’s, and the hornet briefly becomes an inspired and inventive wasp again. The way the three musicians coalesce into playing in time after Corea’s rhapsodic opening to the waltz Very Early is equally impressive. There are original compositions by all three members of the group, and a few jazz standards that are less closely associated with Evans. There’s a respectful nod to Monk on Little Rootie Tootie whereas Tadd Dameron’s Hot House sounds slightly anodyne.
The trio’s real forte is the detailed investigation of ballads. Here Corea’s ability to maintain a grasp of a tune’s structure over eight or nine minutes rivals Evans’ own, and pieces such as the Burke/Van Heusen ballad But Beautiful have seldom been played better.