“…a magnificent achievement by all concerned.”
Part 1: After a Kentonesque intro (had Kenton still been around) Bill Evans, who isn’t a reincarnated pianist nor an aka Yusef Lateef, erupts on soprano. This is definitely the Beast.
Part 2: A change from major to minor mood suggests that the beast is eying up a young lady who has entered his castle. The mood now is Ellington/Mingus and Evans is both Beauty and Beast as the scene changes.
Even if this had been called Fish and Chips it would still have been one magnificent piece of writing – and playing. Oh dear, I think the young woman is in turmoil – where is daddy?
Part 3: Steve Hamilton brings this one in. Building tension. Is beauty running around trying to escape or is she fighting an attraction for the beast who is now blowing tenor? He’s coming on strong. This is wilder than Kenton ever dreamed of – makes City of Glass sound like Mantovani!
Part 4: Tenor blows a cadenza then, once again the minor key. Something big going down here. There’s a Disney movie doing the rounds but the soundtrack couldn’t be any more atmospheric than this! Wild tenor playing? Melodic interlude, is this love or lust?
Part 5: Gentle. Beauty, reflects on her status, is she in love with the Beast? The soprano playing suggests she might be.
Part 6: The arranging, as throughout is perfection. Think Stan Getz’s Focus with Eddie Sauter. Evans and Smith are well up for it, maybe even surpassing it. The tenor playing is wild, has the Beast gone crazy? Has love driven him over the edge? He wouldn’t be the first!
Part 7: A melancholy opening, soprano in a romantic mood but, [me] having, belatedly, read the fairy tale (I should have done that first) perhaps it’s the discovery that the Beast appears to have died of a broken heart due to the object of his affection being late in returning to the castle – aren’t they always? Soprano runs the changes like a woman frantic at her loss taking it out on his pet dragon. She didn’t care that the Beast was ugly – she’d seen beyond that and loved him for his inner self. She cries and that tear lands on his cheek and he is alive again and they both live happily ever after!
This is, perhaps, the ultimate jazz concerto. The composing, the arranging, the rehearsing – the time even these top guys must have spent getting it right must have been awesome. Tommy Smith and his clan presented Evans with a put up or shut up challenge. A challenge he accepted and he certainly put up! My only criticism is that I’d rather Smith had given each movement a title rather than Parts 1 – 7. That way I wouldn’t have had to put my totally wrong take on the portrayal. That aside, a magnificent achievement by all concerned.
The CD was released in October 2016 and, if Jazz Journal had invited me to take part in their annual Critics Poll it would have been high on the list.
Review by Lance Liddle: Bebop spoken here
Ryan Quigley, Ewan Mains, Lorne Cowieson, Tom McNiven (trumpets); Chris Grieve, Kevin Garrity, Michael Owers, Lorna McDonald (trombones); Martin Kershaw, Paul Towndrow (alto); Tommy Smith, Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor); Bill Fleming (baritone); Steve Hamilton (piano); Kevin Glasgow (bass); Alyn Cosker (drums).