Review Summary: Quiet NowThis review is part two in a series of three. Part one can be found here
The second one up, judging by the applause-o-meter from Volume 1’s introductory track “Présentation”, is one of the most famous jazz bassists to ever pluck the strings.
(Santurce, Puerto Rico, October 4, 1944)
Eddie Gómez was born on Puerto Rico but was raised in New York, where he graduated from Juilliard in 1963. According to All About Jazz, his quick reflexes and flexibility made him the perfect candidate for being an accompanist, which he would be for the biggest part of his long and lauded career.
The story of the first meeting between Gómez and Evans is well-documented. After Evans’ previous bassist Scott LaFaro’s untimely death (more on that in part three), Evans was devastated and would not play for a few months. The period after that, he recorded albums with several bassists, but it was not till he met Gómez that a new golden age dawned for Evans. Gómez brought new life to what would become one of the most stable, longest-lasting, and industrious trios Evans would ever lead. Their collaboration would last for 11 years, from 1966 to 1977, bringing renewed success and critical acclaim.
Eddie’s style and versatility fitted very well with what Evans was looking for. In a 1970 interview, Evans described Gómez as him having “the most amazing flexibility, Eddie is marvellous in that he has a very wide scope, and as much as he fits me like a glove, you’d almost think this is the only way he could play, because he does it so perfectly, but it’s not”. Evans jokingly told a story about watching a gig on television one morning after a concert with Gómez, and thinking that the dude playing bass in the Israeli group he saw showed an almost eerie resemblance to Gómez. Of course, it turned out that this was in fact Eddie playing, and Evans could not believe how well he blended in with the Israeli folk they were playing. His flexibility is further shown by the long list of jazz heavyweights with which Gómez collaborated. These include Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Bley, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock, among many others. As Time Magazine put it very accurately: “Eddie Gómez has the world on his strings”.
Much like LaFaro before him, who was a big influence on his playing, Eddie Gómez was a specialist in the higher registers of the double bass. This can be heard on “Autumn Leaves” for instance, which sees Gómez use the higher register in a very expressive manner. His virtuoso playing style makes strong use of clear and pronounced melody as a driving force (clearly on display on for instance “Re : Person I Knew”). Gómez once said in an interview that he approached music from the perspective of it being primarily “song and dance”. He elaborated on this, saying “To me, a melody is really our true guide, our true north, for finding chords, harmonic motion, the meter, and for improvisation.” He went on explaining that the melody is first and foremost in his head when he plays. “It’s right there, and it gives you a sort of huge clue as to where we want to be going, to begin this development”.
Another important aspect to the good fit of Gómez and Evans is the way he approached the bass as a stand-alone instrument. Eddie acknowledged influences of other bassists such as Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, and Charles Mingus, and of course the ever-looming work of LaFaro, which he claimed was never reached by another bass player ever since, including himself. In a 1968 interview, when Gómez was only 23 years old, he said he thought that before LaFaro, “there weren’t enough great bass players contributing in a solo-way, I felt that all the good, interesting things were coming from the horn players. That’s all changed now. A lot of bass players are making a musical contribution, and kind of challenging the other instruments.”
Gómez felt that the bass should be an instrument that, like horns or the piano, should be expressive and melodic in its own way. In-line with this, he said the way he views bass playing “has nothing to do with technique, necessarily, or virtuosity. It isn’t just scales, being able to play certain studies, or anything like that. Whatever I play—if it’s just one note—my intention is to make a nice, pretty sound, that has a good feeling about it. I never thought so much about whisking about; up and down the bass.” This approach suited Evans’ style wonderfully, since he, too, was mainly looking at his instrument from an expressive rather than technical point of view.
Many of these qualities are on clear display on the Live in Paris 1972
records. “My Romance”, track 7 of the current volume, clearly shows his use of melody in his beautifully pronounced solo. The funky final few notes (tuntuntuntun!) on “Someday My Prince Will Come” (of Snow White-fame!) are undeniably groovy. He even uses the bow on a couple of tracks here, for instance during the amazing rendition of “Elsa”, the opening number of volume 3. And his expressive, emotionally-laden playing is on display everywhere.
LaFaro’s where some big shoes to fill, but Gómez did this with style, bringing his own melody-focussed view, emotional playing, and flexible, responsive touch to this tremendous trio. I for one will not soon tire of hearing his work time and time (and time…) again.
Part three of this three part review can be found here
Track list Volume 2
Twelve Tone Tune 7:42
Quiet Now 5:39
Very Early 5:37
Autumn Leaves 4:29
Time Remembered 6:38
My Romance 10:52
Someday My Prince Will Come 6:32