Recorded in New York City 1961 (1 to 5)
Considering the legendary bassist Scott LaFaro released no albums as a leader and was known strictly as a sideman, that this recording exists is nothing less than a miracle, and an event in the annals of jazz. It consists of a brief program featuring five selections with the equally brilliant pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete La Roca, a long rehearsal tape of "My Foolish Heart" with the Bill Evans Trio circa 1966, a 1966 interview about LaFaro with Evans, and a solo piano piece from Friedman done in 1985. So while only half of the disc faithfully features LaFaro's deep and honest bass playing, it is more than worthwhile to finally hear. Of the tracks with Friedman, LaFaro's bass is clearly heard, up in the production mix, and holds its own as a distinctive voice, his solid, resonant quarter notes pounding out these rhythms like few ever have. But it is Friedman, a brilliant jazz musician in his own right, who shines mightily on this date, and in many ways trumps Evans in terms of chops, invention, and bop energy. His fingers are flying on "I Hear a Rhapsody," buoyed by the swing of LaFaro, while conversely able to fluidly flow through non-stressed lines on "Green Dolphin Street," where his extrapolated lines combine innovation with subtlety. There are two takes of the Friedman original "Sacre Ble'u," as the pianist delves deep into pure melody with slightly off-minor shadings and chiming piano chords, followed by classic LaFaro bass solos.
A version of "Woody'n You" is another furiously sped-up bop with nary a dropped note, while La Roca steams ahead, pushes the group, and challenges LaFaro and Friedman like he and few other bop-based drummers can. The solo piano piece "Memories for Scotty" is an elegant elegy or requiem for the longtime deceased bassist in hushed tones, presenting reverent remembrances and the attitude that he is sorely missed. The Bill Evans Trio take of "My Foolish Heart" is included strictly for historical purposes, a curiosity that at almost 23 minutes is tedious, and not well recorded. George Klabin's interview with Evans from 1966 is illuminating, as the pianist talks extensively about meeting LaFaro (and playing "strange" music with Chet Baker), immediately observing he was "overplaying" his instrument, feeling he was a "large" person when physically he was not, and remembering that his talent was bubbling over before he learned the virtue of restraint. Considering this is released some 50 years after LaFaro's death in a car accident at age 25, and that his career lasted a mere seven years, any nitpicking about this issue should be dismissed. It's a rare window into the soul of Scott LaFaro apart from his great sessions with Evans, and a complement to the book written by his sister Helene LaFaro Fernandez, Jade Visions.
All Music Guide