Recent listening, current

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

188. John Lewis / Evolution II (2000)

When he recorded Evolution II, Lewis had long since achieved the accomplishments that would define his impact on jazz. But saying as much is unfair for this man. I scratch my head and marvel, open my ears and let the piano fill them with knowledge. His technique is still surprising, oscillating from arranged structures to improvised heavy swing. Here he reinterprets his own pieces in three separate continua: a gleaning from the past, the import of the present, and the dictates of his present moment. It shrugs at commercial boxes like "pop," "classical," or "jazz" by exposing commonalities in the ineffable and truly nameless thing that we call "music." As always, it points in a new direction. Maybe a little like Paul Desmond, his understated touch can miss you the first time, then devastate the second. Like Ahmad Jamal, he understands the penetrating effects of silence and balance. Or like Mingus, depth allows for endless reimagining. The meandering stroll down memory lane seeks unexplored areas of familiar paths. Whether the march from "Trieste," for instance, "Winter Tale" or the unmistakable strains of "Django," this effort proves that without Milt, another MJQ was impossible, but Lewis' mission would continue. Kudos to Lewis Nash, whose complex, articulate and just brilliant drumming puts all the pieces in place.


  1. I think John Lewis was grossly undervalued by the jazz world because he was not "hip" like Milt. However, he produced music that was interesting, could swing like the clappers when needed and was always thoughtful and structured. Composition and arranging skills sans pareil.
    Listen to all the recordings of "Django" from 1953 up until the time of his passing (don't forget YouTube as well!) to see how the original idea evolved and morphed into the masterpiece that that the last performances revealed.

    1. Bill, thank you for commenting. I completely agree about John Lewis. I spent some time trolling YouTube and "Django" has a pretty dramatic arc of story. It's hard for me to think of an equal for Lewis.. sans pareil, indeed. Chris