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Bill Evans (Piano)/Bob Brookmeyer: The Ivory Hunters

Album Notes

Personnel: Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Evans (piano); Percy Heath (bass); Connie Kay (drums).

Recorded in New York, New York on March 12, 1959. Originally released on United Artists (LP 6044). Reissued in 1981 on Liberty/Blue Note under the title AS TIME GOES BY. Includes liner notes by Pete Welding.

When Bill Evans agreed to do a two piano date with Bob Brookmeyer, eyebrows surely must have raised. Pairing a rising superstar of modern jazz with a gentleman known for playing valve trombone and arranging charts might have been deemed by some as a daunting task. Fortunately for the keyboardists, this was a good idea and a marvelous concept, where the two could use the concept of counterpoint and improvisation to an enjoyable means, much like a great chess match. For the listener, you are easily able to hear the difference between ostensible leader Evans in the right channel of the stereo separation, and the accompanist Brookmeyer in the left. The opener "Honeysuckle Rose" gives a basic idea of what to expect, as Evans leads out, Brookmeyer counters his moves, and they trade riffs in an inventive bridge. "The Way You Look Tonight" is similar as Brookmeyer is more playful in his chiming chords and second melody line. The energy level is very good here, as well as on the democratic, funky contemporary intro to the easy swing of "It Could Happen to You" and "I Got Rhythm," jam-packed with fun plus risk-taking. There's a different give and take during "The Man I Love," and they turn the lamp down low on a delicate version of "As Time Goes By" as the pianists trade leads, and bassist Percy Heath adopts a more pronounced role. It is Heath and drummer Connie Kay, on loan from the Modern Jazz Quartet, who precisely and firmly cement rhythmic elements, allowing the pianists to use space, harmony, wit and wisdom to full effect. Some have called this an effort based more on gimmick and showmanship, but if you agree to listen closely, the depth and substance of Evans and Brookmeyer reveals a lot of soul, invention, and musicians simply having a real good time. It would be nice to hear any alternate takes from this marvelous date. ~ Michael G. Nastos


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