Personnel: Karen Gallinger (vocals); Larry Koonse, Gannin Arnold (guitar); Tom Zink (piano); Chris Wabich (drums).
For her fourth album, Karen Gallinger has taken on the not insignificant undertaking of devoting a program virtually entirely to the compositions of a singularly inventive jazz pianist, Bill Evans. Evans' musical structures can be difficult to deal with just as instrumentals, never mind when lyrics have been added. His music can be jagged and quirky and was usually composed without any idea of accommodating the needs of a lyricist. In addition to being technically intimidating, his music can be brooding, pensive, and introspective reflecting the personal difficulties he faced throughout his far too short life.
The obstacles notwithstanding, vocalist Karen Gallinger and her talented cohorts pull off this undertaking with facility and aplomb making Remembering Bill Evans a notable event. Their success was aided and abetted by Evans' widow, Nenette Evans, who provided material giving the performers unique insights on the music. This results in not only excellent interpretations of some of Evans' better-known compositions like "Turn out the Stars" and the jazz classic "Waltz for Debbie" tour de force performances, but lesser-known works like "My Bells" and "Only Child" are made memorable occasions as well. With her dark, deep voice, restrained scatting, and her unusual ability to transform her voice into a stringed instrument like a bass or cello, this becomes Gallinger's finest album to date. Her supporting cast is excellent. Tom Zink's piano, which shows the influence of Evans, along with Larry Steen's lyrical bass and Chris Wabich's restrained drums provide the foundation upon which this session is built. Larry Koonse is on just four tracks, but on those his guitar work is sterling. In addition to her singing, Gallinger also wrote the lyrics to some of the songs. This is a fine tribute album and is recommended. ~ Dave Nathan