Lilac Time

by: Jimmy Rowles

Jimmy Rowles was accomplished in jazz settings from solo to small ensembles, and a highly sought-after accompanist by top female vocalists. He was so proficient at the latter that some dubbed him the Gerald Moore of jazz. No matter what the setting, Rowles was always at the top of his game. This album was cut in 1994 at a time when the pianist was suffering from on-and-off health problems. But this did not detract one iota from his peerless pianism and unmatched sensitive lyricism. Joined by bass player Eric Von Essen, Rowles waltzes through a program of standards, originals, and obscure material like the source of the album title, "Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time," composed in the 1920s for the film Lilac Time. One trait that made Rowles so special was his capacity to bring forgotten material to the public's attention and make them wonder why it was forgotten. He also liked to tinker with classics, and when he put his mind to it, he could do more than tinker. Here he only dabbles in his playing of "Maury" and "Maurice" from Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and ChloƩ Suite -- but what else could he do in the 22 and 40 seconds each devoted to these tracks! Whimsical, introspective, and relaxed playing has him resuscitating such established standards as "Lullaby of the Leaves" and "I'm Old Fashioned." Von Essen provides admirable support and is rewarded from time to time with solo opportunities, such as on "Theme From Arrest and Trial." Rowles sings on a few of the tracks (e.g., "Accent on Youth") and one wishes that the same praise could be applied to his vocalizing as to his piano playing. While his voice is even more whispery and breathy than Chet Baker's, it is not nearly as engaging, perhaps due to his wandering from the keys only from time to time. But whatever his vocal shortcomings, they are more than overcome by his talent at the keyboard on Lilac Time. Recommended. ~ Dave Nathan

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.