This is a tribute album, not “to” but Autour de Bill Evans, ie AROUND him. Autour includes tunes by Evans himself, by his bassist Scott Lafaro, as well as by popular composers like Ray Noble, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen and Henry Mancini. What holds them all to the ‘autour/around’ theme is the Evans style “less is more” minimalist arrangements. This premier Montreal band also preserves the Evans approach to voicing chords and connecting them seamlessly into a progression.
The album opens with François Bourassa’s swinging piano laying down chords ‘ostinato’ of Evans’ “Five,” followed by Frank Lozano taking his chorus on a talking sax. Lafaro’s ballad “Gloria’s Step” comes off melodic, exotic, passionate, and is followed nicely by Bourassa’s slow ballad “Nationz.” Then it’s Evans again, “Very Early,”–a slow, formless, contemplative tune. Lozano’s baritone sax gets an interesting vibe here, sort of intellectual, that gets even more interesting when the piano and double bass (Michel Donato) get into a duo. Cole Porter’s ballad “Everything I Love” develops a rhythm you can almost dance to. Evan’s “Nancy With the Laughing Face” reminds you how an Evans song tells a story, and it shows great brushwork by Pierre Tanguay. Touches of funk and torch augment this very listenable album. AUTOUR DE BILL EVANS, Donato, Bourassa, Lozano, Tanguay, Effendi Records (FND 112)
Taury Butler, now of Montreal, debuts here as trio leader with some elegantly phrased piano reflections on an appealing collection of Standards. He starts with “Sunrise, Sunset,” nicely more jazz than Klez, his piano sounding like a transcribed Coltrane arrangment of “My Favourite Things”. “The Lady is a Tramp” continues the album’s hipped up-pop vibe. Taury’s piano is uptempo, sculpted crisp and clear, and you can hear Oscar Peterson’s influence. “Moonlight in Vermont” opens rich in Art Tatum style, then slows down nicely. Taury’s interpretation of melody and his variations are memorable. Two or three of his own tunes are bluesy, tender, and interesting. Wali Muhammad keeps the percussion crisp, and Eric Lagacé keeps good time and gets off a few juicy bass solos. TAURY BUTLER, Justin Time Records, 2011.
Chorégraphie, by Yves Lévéllé and his Quartet, is the coolest surprise of this hot stack of discs. The Montreal-based composer-pianist, saddled up with some fine musicians, especially saxist Roberto Murray, takes an easy, loping, ride through a setlist totally intimate and also swinging like a Village Gate. With Adrian Vedady on ContreBasse and Alain Bastien á la batterie they generate an almost mystically supple line that moves with serpentine elegance and ease along the eight versatile tracks of this very satisfying album. Yves Lévéllé, Chorégraphie, Effendi, 2010.