Evolution 2 (Atlantic)
Reviewed by Harvey Pekar, Fri., April 27, 2001
Evolution 2 (Atlantic)With the passing of John Lewis at the end of March, the third and final part of the Evolution trilogy is in question. Yet if this second installment of the series is to be the Modern Jazz Quartet musical director's swan song, it's a gem. Here Lewis, at 80 years of age, gives us an album that most pianists of any age would be pleased to produce. He's given excellent, subtle accompaniment by bassists Marc Johnson and George Mraz, guitarists Howard Collins and Howard Alden, and drummer Lewis Nash. Here, Lewis' playing is more focused than on the previous Evolution disc; he concentrates more on what he does best and doesn't spend so much time trying to evoke the memories of earlier pianists. The no-nonsense work of Johnson and Mraz keeps Lewis from getting too cute most of the time, although there are some coy moments here. Lewis plays melodic, unhurried solos, exhibiting a light but crisp touch, and getting an attractive sonority out of his instrument. His finely tuned sense of dynamic and register contrast is also in evidence. You can't fault his repertoire either; he's performing some of his most attractive pieces, including "Django," "Festivals," and "Afternoon in Paris" (titled "That! Afternoon in Paris"). "Parker's Mood" is fun thanks to Lewis quoting Charlie Parker's original, which the pianist appeared in 1948. Strangely, Lewis' sidemen don't solo, and a little more timbral variety would've been welcome, but if it's the case that Evolution stops here, jazz will have been well served.