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Taihei Asakawa: Waltz for Debby
Although it may seem overly-ambitious to reinvent the classic 1961 Bill Evans Trio live recordings Waltz for Debby and Sunday At The Village Vanguard, pianist Taihei Asakawa boldly takes that challenge on his deeply fascinating and atmospheric avant-garde solo piano recording Waltz for Debby. Performed live for an audience in 2018, the material and mood are compelling: introspective and patient, occasionally decorated with flights of vibrant melody, constantly summoning emotion from the notes released from the beautifully-recorded piano.
Although Asakawa performs the thirteen tracks live and in the same order as the original Bill Evans recordings, the pianist artfully avoids performing a simple imitation of Bill Evans. Instead, Asakawa interprets the music in his own style, delicately taking care of each piece, letting the notes breathe and the music blossom patiently. Performed with skill and taste, this is a labor of love and respect, an homage to the Bill Evans albums that so many listeners have admired for years.
Disc one, with five songs averaging between 10 to 14 minutes each, contrasts the light buoyancy of some of the original music (“Waltz for Debby”, “My Romance”) with Asakawa’s somewhat darker and fantastical dream-like style. Asakawa’s interpretations are an effective demonstration of the atmosphere he was aiming for that night: music to carry the listeners away in a meditative calm as he improvised and reflected on the music.
Disc two continues in this vein and adds variation with several brighter mid- and up-tempo tunes, including a Bill Evans-esque “Solar” and “All Of You”, and a fun Keith Jarrett-style jazz riff improvisation on “Milestones”. In particular, a cheery “Gloria’s Step” and mysterious “Jade Visions” (written by Bill Evans’ bassist Scott LaFaro), are most reminiscent of the original recording here, a welcoming tribute.
Waltz for Debby by Taihei Asakawa
Taihei Asakawa - piano
Released in 2018 on Cortez Sound as CSJ0008.
Japanese names: Taihei Asakawa 浅川太平
Audio and Video
Excerpt from the opening track, "My Foolish Heart":