Published in Jazz Improv, V. 4, No. 1 (12/2002)

Dave Askren Trio, Re: Bill Evans, DaWay Music, DW10
Released 2002. Recorded 2001, Los Angeles.
"Re Person I Knew"; "Spring Is Here"; "Everything I Love"; "My Foolish Heart"; "Midnight Mood"; "Who Cares?"; "Time Remembered"; "Freddie Freeloader"; "It Might As Well Be Spring"; "When Sunny Gets Blue"; "If You Could See Me Now".
Personnel: Dave Askren, guitar; Mike Flick, bass; Steve Sykes, drums.

Review by Virginia A. Schaefer

In his liner notes to Re: Bill Evans, Los Angeles-based guitarist Dave Askren writes that in their renditions of selections from the Evans repertoire, he and his bassist and drummer aimed to capture some of the pianist's "vibe". Askren explains that when he could, he reproduced the pianist's chord voicings, but had to reinterpret many (particular those with clusters) that are unplayable on guitar. However, he expresses confidence that the trio has followed Evans's rhythmic approach, in which "the pulse is always present, but the time does not need to be constantly stated".

The opening "Re Person I Knew" demonstrates the players' interpretative abilities. Comprising four four-bar phrases, the medium-tempo Bill Evans composition uses a harmonic structure called "impressionistic" (progressions in fourths, whole tones). Askren's playing style is even and clear, with moderate sustain and a light attack. He uses chords, broken (strummed) and plucked, in a natural-sounding way, and the chord colors (extensions) and voicings are evocative of those used by Evans. Askren solos ably on the short but irregular tune, as does bassist Mike Flick. The drummer, Steve Sykes, plays quietly with brushes on cymbals or with his hands on the drumheads; he often goes beyond timekeeping to add phrases.

The other Bill Evans composition, "Time Remembered", I find the best performance on the disc. "Time Remembered" is longer than "Re Person I Knew" but is also in a form without repetitions and is impressionistic in its harmonic structure. Here Askren frequently harmonizes with parallel fourths and occasionally with major sevenths, which enhances the rootless, impressionistic effect and gives the flavor of Evans's voicings. Flick plays a solo that is melodically and rhythmically expressive and well-developed. Most impressively, the piano and bass engage in contrapuntal exchange toward the end of the performance.

Among the standard songs are two Richard Rodgers ballads, both in less-usual forms and both about spring. "Spring Is Here" is wistfully expressive. The trio takes it at about the same tempo that Evans did in the two recordings I checked. However, Askren doesn't reproduce all the countermelodies and fills that Evans played, which is perhaps why the tempo seems to drag. "It Might As Well Be Spring" is also done well, with a good bass solo, but a bit slow.

In the Victor Young classic "My Foolish Heart", Frick plays a particularly sensitive bass part, bending notes to great advantage. Sykes does nice work with brushes on cymbals and occasional hand drumming. All handle well the accelerando in the coda just before the end, which I find a fitting device to capture the romanticism of Evans's playing. The trio take the less-known Cole Porter "Everything I Love" at medium-uptempo pace. Askren plays skillful hard-bop style solos. The drums seem a little too prominent here; I think this is an effect of the production, which makes the drum set sound as though it's surrounding the other instruments.

Gershwin's "Who Cares?" might seem an obscure selection to include, as the version Askren cites is on a Cannonball Adderley recording in which Evans played in the rhythm section. However, Askren does as well as ever playing the melody and comping for himself in the uptempo rendition. In his solo, Askren effectively uses some of the broken-off phrasing of Evans.

The Miles Davis blues "Freddie Freeloader" does seem like an odd choice, as it was Wynton Kelly who played piano on it on Kind of Blue, cited by Askren. In any case, the trio plays swinging version with a catchy bass pattern and not-especially-Evansish guitar soloing.

"Midnight Mood" represents the jazz waltz genre to which Evans gravitated. The trio plays the sprightly Joe Zawinul tune with aplomb. For the standard "When Sunny Gets Blue", they use a medium tempo with a well-handled Brazilian-swing groove alternation. Askren notes that Evans did not record this song, but that the trio's version is based on Evans's version of "Night and Day", with "extended solo 'breaks'"; I think that refers to a bass solo chorus with no comping and light tapping by the drums. As the closing number, "If You Could See Me Now" conveys the wistfulness of the Tadd Dameron standard at a solid medium tempo.

This recording is of interest to listeners who like Bill Evans and guitar, and are interested in hearing some well-executed approaches to combining the two.