It’s almost like a rite of passage for every jazz pianist worth his salt to make a Bill Evans tribute record. Her salt, too. Pamela Hines was more than ready for her own thesis on this greatly influential figure of both jazz and piano, which is contained in the just-released 3.2.1..
Yes, Hines was well prepared to speak to the ghost of Bill Evans. Ever since she issued her first album — another numerically titled record called 9:45 in 1998 — this Boston-born and trained musician has consistently made records that met acclaim, through a recording career where she embraces different sets of challenges each time. For instance, 2009’s This Heart of Mine was solo piano, while 2010s’ Moon Germs found her working in a quintet where she shared space with two horns. In 2011, Hines worked with a vocalist for Lucky’s Boy, demonstrating her ability as a skilled partner for a singer much as Evans did when he paired with Tony Bennett.
3.2.1. features only three Evans originals (“34 Skidoo,” “B Minor Waltz,” “Loose Blues”) but includes other songs Evans showcased and made his own. It also features the rhythm section of David Clark (bass) and Yoron Israel (drums). All three bear the influence of their respective counterparts in the Evans/Scott LaFaro/Paul Motian trio but none of them are mere mimics. Hines, for instance plays those signature introverted, empyrean Bill Evans chords but with her own delicacy and nimble phrasing, exemplified on tracks such as “Skidoo” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.” On performances such as “East Of The Sun,”, Israel plays loose limbed like Motian did, but employs cymbals more and is overall pretty spacious in his manner. Meanwhile, Clark might venture up LaFaro style into the high registers during “Spring,” but for “B Minor Waltz” hs solo is more akin to Paul Chambers.
There are other moments where Hines recalls some of Evans’ contemporaries instead, such as the Red Garland sounding “If you Could See Me now,” and her deft handling of the Latin rhythm portrayed on “Sangre Joven” is right in the pocket. A surprisingly strong performance comes from the alternate take of “Loose Blues,” a duet between Hines and Clark. Here, they take more chances, straying further away from the basic melody, and at one point threatens to go outside. Both versions of “Loose Blues” are commendable for the interplay; Clark is closely tracking Hines’ every move.
Whether viewed as salutation to the legacy of Bill Evans or just a lovely execution of piano trio jazz, 3.2.1. succeeds either way. 3.2.1. was released January 15, by Spice Rack Records. Visit Pamela Hines’ website for more info.
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