Exquisite tenor jazz
A. K. L. | Steilacoom, WA USA | 05/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Passed masters like Zoot Sims, Jimmy Rowles and bassist George Mraz don't have to go outside on the harmonies, up the tempos, or use extra notes to impress us. They play from the soul, and their refined technique is only to serve the soul.
Jimmy Rowles is as much a part of this graceful session as Zoot. The two made other outstanding albums - 'Suddenly It's Spring'/'If I'm Lucky'/ 'Peacocks' - but none better than this tribute to Lady Day, full of warmth and affection without sentimentality. The songs on this CD are Billie Holliday's favorites, and these guys know it because they were there: Rowles accompanied her on piano for many years. Each song is an ode, not just to Lady Day, but to those early days of modern jazz which, at the time of this '78 session, must have had the feel of sacred memory to these aging masters.
George Mraz's bass is eloquent, and as wonderfully recorded as any bass I've ever heard on CD. The brushes of drummer Jackie Williams give the finishing touch to every tender phrase, a lesson in subtlety and mature understatement. In this autumnal music, there's not a single brush stroke, piano chord, or sigh of the tenor more than needed. Discovering this recording is one of those moments of serendipity that happen to a jazz lover just a few times in life, when you thought you'd heard all the important sessions, only to find that there are more gifts of the masters than you knew. Some recordings bowl us over with monumental creativity, but they collect dust on our shelves after one or two hearings. Then there are such humble pearls as this, which we have overlooked. When we find them, their music grows inside us, gently compelling our hand to take them off the shelf and listen again, and again. I promise you that this is such a pearl."