Friday, February 10, 2012

Przemyslaw Straczek & Teriver Cheung - Evans (Fonografika, 2012)

Przemysław Strączek - guitar

Teriver Cheung - guitar

Evans (Fonografika, 2012)

Przemek Strączek is one of most talented young guitarist in Poland which is evidenced by his latest release "Light &Shadow" (2010). His voice is subdued, elegant and satin smooth. His music pairs well with silence, night and time of rest. Moreover he is ambitious artist and although his mainstream allegiance is obvious, he nonetheless is constantly searching for new opportunities and challenges. This project is good example of such his attitude. His first record was in trio format, second in quartet while this time he changed for duo, specifically guitar duo, which is rare to find in jazz. His partner in duo is Teriver Cheung, a very young guitarist and Hong Kong native, currently residing in New York where he already got opportunity to collaborate with for example Eddie Gomez. He is prodigiously talented and his virtuosic style is breathtaking!

As you probably remember Eddie Gomez was a bassist in famous Billy Evans Trio. This Gomez link is important to remember because whole album is tribute to Bill Evans. That Evans is pivotal figure in jazz in general and for cool jazz in particular is beyond any doubt. His music remains admired by countless listeners regardless years that has passed since his untimely death in 1980. It is therefore smart to go for this music but  unfortunately this bold move is also a source of weakness of this album. Why? To answer such a question we have to look deeper into personality of the artist of highest caliber in jazz, that is Bill Evans.

Evans was one of founders of cool jazz and looked from modern point of view his legacy seems as important as this of Miles Davis or John Coltrane. Not only he composed plenty of charismatic tunes but first of all he created language entirely his own which was subsequently developed by geniuses like Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau. Whole ECM aesthetic is deeply, very deeply indebted in Evans ideas. And what this ideas were about? Not so easy to tell... As musically as personally Evans was extremely complex individual. His weaknesses were at least as big in size as his talent was. For the most part of his career he despised music he played and was of opinion that he is playing BADLY. I believe that unlike 99% of jazz pianist he compared his music not to Erroll Garner, Bud Powell or Art Tatum but to... Jan Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Fryderyk Chopin. If you choose Evans music as starting point and want to interpret it anew you must be aware of this affinities. You must be prepared for real challenge!

And here is my point! Although Przemek Strączek and Teriver Cheung are very talented guitarist they were unable to add even ONE significant note to Evans compositions. They simply make them into pretty songs which makes them sound flat, blank and inexpressive. I admit that I am really in difficult position as far as this album is concerned: I cannot deny it is very well played, I do not hide I really enjoy listening it one time after another, music is simply beautiful and yet... something is missing in this music, something crucial to Evans jazz. Perhaps I will find it during concerts since I believe that this music should sound much better played LIVE. At least I hope so...

Author: Maciej Nowotny

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