There are two effective types of tribute in the music world. The first is an accurate revival or extension of an artist's style and/or repertoire: Examples at the Kool Jazz Fest include Sphere (Thelonious Monk), the Bechet Legacy (Sidney Bechet) and Philly Joe Jones and Dameronia (Tadd Dameron). The other is more reflective: a summing up of influence and achievement by one's peers.
Bill Evans, the seminal modern pianist noted particularly for his lyrical improvisations and agile touch, is warmly remembered on "Bill Evans -- A Tribute." Five of the album's 14 featured pianists will appear during Sunday's Kool festivities.
It's typical of Evans' influence that none of the players tries to imitate him, choosing instead to celebrate different aspects of his style. George Shearing and Jimmy Rowles evoke the warmth in his playing; Teddy Wilson, Dave McKenna and Dave Frishberg suggest his fleet energies and flair for melodic invention; Chick Corea, John Lewis and Denny Zeitlin invoke his meditative quietude; Warren Bernhardt, Andy Laverne and Joanne Brackeen give in to the exuberant gait and propulsive energy that he sometimes showed; Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner revive the kinetic waterfall of notes and sheets of sounds that completed the Evans approach.
That's quite a lineup, and it's obviously hard to point to highlights when there are no lowlights, but Shearing's loving reading of "Waltz for Debby," Zeitlin's turnaround on his own elegiac "Quiet Now" (an Evans staple) and Tyner's vibrant "We Will Meet Again" all stand out. Evans, who died in 1980, lives on in these hands and hearts.
Tadd Dameron, the fine composer- arranger who died in 1965, has fallen into the kind of neglect common to jazz figures who were not compelling musicians or performers. A better-than-middling pianist, Dameron was one of the first to temper the harmonic innovations of bop with his own ample gifts for melody and form, the first to write bebop for big bands. As a result, his compositions and arrangements made him a pivotal figure connecting the avant-garde of the '40s with the mainstream of the '50s and '60s. His influence was carried forward openly in the work of Quincy Jones and Benny Golson, and more subtly in hundreds of jazzy scores for film and television.
Dameronia, a project originally funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is a working repertory nonet exploring Dameron's work, mostly from transcriptions by trumpeter/music director Don Sickler. The group consists of solid soloists who are superb ensemble players.
Matched with Dameron's challenging charts -- every part was equally important, giving the band a larger-than-life sound -- they have come up with an album of living history. Included are the snappy insistence of "Sid's Delight," the lustrous multi- layered concert piece "Fontainebleau" and the lovely ballad "Soultrane," originally a small combo piece filled out here and blessed with some soulful Johnny Hodges- style alto from Frank Wess.
There are a few more solos than the first time around, but overall, the music is still traveling first class. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUMS BILL EVANS -- A TRIBUTE (Palo Alto Records PA8028-2). DAMERONIA -- To Tadd With Love (Uptown 27.11). THE SHOWS HERBIE HANCOCK with the VSOP II Quintet, Sunday at noon and 2:45 at the Concert Hall. JOHN LEWIS with the Modern Jazz Quartet at 3:35 in the Opera House. DAVE FRISHBERG solo at noon in the Terrace Theater. JIMMY ROWLES solo at 9:20 p.m. in the Terrace Theater. JOANNE BRACKEEN at 8:10 p.m. with the Festival Allstars. DAMERONIA at 9:20 p.m. in the Opera House, all part of Sunday's Kool Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center.