It's always intriguing when a musician's compositions are played by a group where the composer's instrument is nowhere to be heard. So it is here with a CD of Bill Evans works, both obscure and familiar, played by a large band with nary a piano around. This treatment helps you realize how strong Evans' writing was in the first place.
Jim Norton's approach comes close to the old Third Stream discipline. Classical voicings are combined with classic jazz-style swinging in a manner that recalls Evans' time with his early employer, George Russell. "Fudgesickle" swirls with baroque voicings against lively guitar and horn solos. "NYC's No Lark", written for pianist Sonny Clark, is ominous and dark. "Interplay" has flute lighting the way for Joel Behrman's trombone and Scott Sorkin's guitar in a walking blues setting, and "Very Early" retains its usual dancing, graceful character with John Worley sweeping along on flugelhorn.
"Bill's Hit Tune", featuring Sorkin on acoustic guitar, has the warmth of a movie romance theme, "Twelve Tone Tune" builds out of its harsh melody into a galloping collage of brisk horn voicings and deeply swinging solos while the punchy, uptempo "Five" is played with a color, depth and fire only hinted at in Evans' own recording. This CD enhances and expands on an already impressive body of work in ways that even a great musician like Bill Evans couldn't do with just a piano trio. It's a fantastic effort.