Jazz and, therefore, its discographic reflection, is a music in constant struggle to maintain its creative validity. To have a global vision of this reflection, it is currently necessary to contrast the treasures of the past and the findings of the present. Works that coexist in harmony and that refresh the perspective, maintaining the obvious distances between a time in which jazz was a revolution and constant effervescence, combined by its popular reach in the middle of the last century, and a current time in which this music, cornered in specialized circles, continues to search for innovative and original approaches.
In November 1961, John Coltrane and his group recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York a series of songs that would soon become a cornerstone of the jazz of an era, thanks to two classic albums by the saxophonist that collected recordings from these sessions. , Live at the Village Vanguard and Impressions. Over the years the rest of the songs recorded in those sessions emerged, providing even more depth to a music that influenced several generations of improvisers who continue to be capital.
Among the many unreleased Coltrane recordings that have come out in recent times, with more or less success, the recently released Evenings at the Village Gate stands out, a live shot that shows Coltrane’s group only three months before their transcendent stay in the Vanguard. Both his partner Eric Dolphy and Coltrane himself are at one of the peaks of their respective careers, particularly the latter, who was already transcending the progress of his Giant Steps and diving into the organic expressiveness that would be the locomotive of his art until its death. Recorded with a single microphone, the album’s sound is far from perfect, but the extraordinary quality of the music justifies its importance.
In the summer of 1961, also at the Village Vanguard, pianist Bill Evans refounded the modern trio of piano, double bass and drums with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. A few days after the trio’s recordings at the legendary club, LaFaro’s death set back Evans’ career, as he had found the perfect accomplice in the double bassist. But his career continued, full of joy. Evans is, like Coltrane, another of the classic jazzists whose most unreleased recordings have been published in recent years, sometimes with little relevance. However, Treasures is a true discovery that documents various facets of the pianist from recordings made during his visits to Denmark in the sixties.
In it we hear an equally brilliant Evans both in a trio with local musicians such as Alex Riel or an already extraordinary Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, at only 19 years old, and in half a dozen exquisite solo piano pieces, a session with a large orchestra conducted by the trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg or a concert with the trio that would accompany him steadily for years from then on, with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell. The sound is consistently good on all the recordings and the possibility of listening to Evans in such different formats provides a vision of the pianist that clearly enriches his recorded work in those years.
The legacy of Coltrane or Evans continues to influence new generations. One of the most creative musicians of the 21st century, Tyshawn Sorey, has maintained a strong determination to find new creative territories, generally from freer improvisation and experimental music. However, Sorey is a musician with great background and knowledge of tradition, and since last year he has been very active in a trio that, 60 years after Evans’ landmark recordings with LaFaro and Motian, has emerged to renew the classic trio along with pianist Aaron Diehl and double bassist Matt Brewer, two of the most creative musicians today. This is confirmed by the group’s second recording, Continuing, a masterpiece that looks backward and forward at the same time.
In Sorey’s trio, as in Evans’, piano, double bass and drums have the same importance. Sorey, Diehl and Brewer function as a creative unit, sounding classic and modern at the same time, and with overwhelming interpretive consistency. Sorey pays tribute to his greatest by giving new life to rarely seen compositions by Harold Mabern or two giants like Ahmad Jamal and Wayne Shorter. Legends like them, who, like Evans and Coltrane, marked so many generations of jazz players, are disappearing. That is why musicians like Sorey are so necessary and, thanks to him and many others, jazz can be considered a fully alive music.
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