A novice bassist at 17, a professional bassist at 18, sideman to legendary trumpeter Chet Baker at 20, sideman to legendary pianist Bill Evans at 23, dead in a car wreck at 25: Scott LaFaro became and remains one of the greatest and saddest stories in the history of jazz. In addition to Baker and Evans, LaFaro performed and/or recorded with Ornette Coleman, Paul Bley, and Stan Getz. His original approach to his instrument still inspires almost 50 years after his funeral.
Pieces Of Jade, released in conjunction with Jade Visions, the first full-length LaFaro biography, gathers performances previously unreleased in the U.S. Five tunes stem from a 1961 session with Don Friedman on piano and Pete LaRoca on drums. While sometimes rough -- LaRoca bangs in early on his "I Hear A Rhapsody" solo to unnerving effect -- the trio's virtuosity seems tossed off, casual as a laundry list. Friedman (a pianist with more name recognition in Japan than over here) sprinkles spirals up and down the keyboard, one idea swirling organically into the next at merry tempos. LaFaro often plays straight walking bass, avoiding the bold melodic counterpoint of his work with Evans; but his solos show him at strength, confidently flipping licks between the extremes of his instrument's range.
A lo-fi but fascinating rehearsal tape of Evans and LaFaro, 1960, gives us the album's centerpiece. Over 22 minutes they muse through "My Foolish Heart," telling each other when to go high, low, flat, sharp. They could be poring over blueprints in a skyscraper office, except of course for what comes out. In an interview following the rehearsal tape, Evans confides that he can't accept LaFaro's death. He thinks of his bassist as someone who just isn't here right now. He isn't the only one.
Album title: Pieces of Jade
Artist: Scott LaFaro
Label: Resonance Records
Songs: (1) I Hear a Rhapsody (2) Sacre Bléu [Take 1] (3) Green Dolphin Street (4) Sacre Bléu [Take 2] (5) Woody'n You (6) My Foolish Heart (7) Interview with Bill Evans by George Klabin,1966 (8) Memories for Scotty