By Lloyd Sachs | Published December 2019
In spite of writing classics like “Waltz For Debby,” Bill Evans’ work as a composer tends to get overshadowed by his brilliance as a post-bop pianist and piano-trio innovator—and in the case of “Nardis,” the tune credited to Miles Davis, but believed by some to be written by Evans, by legend. In mixing tunes by and associated with Evans, guitarist Michael Musillami and bassist Rich Syracuse offer a richly balanced view of his genius.
Dig features three Evans compositions, including “C Minor Blues Chase” (a contrapuntist’s delight) and “Twelve Tone Tune” (the freest performance here). But the album largely concentrates on the pianist’s work with modal Miles, including the co-write “Blue In Green” and “All Blues,” which the duo rather miraculously awakens from the deep sleep of endless cover versions. Throughout, the pair achieve the kind of invigorating tonal balance you don’t often hear in a guitar-bass setting. Musillami’s lightness of touch and percussive sparkle play beautifully off Syracuse’s dark lyrical rumble and singing tones. As demonstrated on their swinging rendering of Earl Zindars’ “How My Heart Sings,” these guys can cut loose. But they find greater rewards in an investigatory mode. Their take on “Nardis” dreamily taps into the blues and emulates Evans’ thrilling tension and release on its own terms. It’s the best kind of reconstruction.
Ultimately, in the quiet dazzle of this performance, who wrote what doesn’t really matter. One tune leads seamlessly to the next, adding up to a celebration of Evans’ artistic vision that’s as uplifting as it is accomplished.
Dig: C Minor Blues Chase; Twelve Tone Tune; Blue In Green; Nardis; All Blues; How My Heart Sings; Bill’s Hit Tune. (44:02)
Personnel: Michael Musillami, guitar; Rich Syracuse, bass.