Thursday, February 4, 2010

Scott LaFaro: Pieces of Jade

Resonance Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 2.4.10
Buy CD: Pieces of Jade

Unless you're a Bill Evans fan, the name Scott LaFaro probably doesn't ring any bells. He began to play professionally at age 17, skyrocketed to become a key member of what many consider to be one of the top jazz combos that ever existed, and was killed in a car accident when he was only 25.

Fortunately, he left a legacy of his work.

LaFaro entered New York's Ithica College to study music, taking up the acoustic bass only after learning that a string instrument was required for music education majors. He left college during his sophomore year to join Buddy Morrow's big band; following a cross-country tour, LaFaro left that group to try his luck in the Los Angeles jazz scene.

He became an instant success and worked with luminaries such as Chet Baker, Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Cal Tjader and Victor Feldman. In 1959, LaFaro joined Evans, who recently had left the Miles Davis Sextet. This particular trio — with Evans on piano, LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums — is considered to have been Evans' finest.

During his short life, LaFaro was recognized as a master of his instrument. His technique and innovativeness were far ahead of his time.

Pieces of Jade, recorded in 1961, has just been released by Resonance Records; LaFaro is joined by pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca. The album contains five selections; a “practice tape” during which Evans and LaFaro review a chart to be recorded; a 1966 interview that records Evans discussing LaFaro; and a tribute track written by Friedman.

Evans' interview is informative and demonstrates how strongly he felt about LaFaro as both a musician and friend. (It should be noted that Evans stopped performing for months after LaFaro's death.)

I'd like to label this album a gem, but that isn't the case; the audio quality of the tracks featuring LaFaro is sadly lacking. An avid fan may be interested, but many other albums are superior.

No comments: