Eddie Gomez: rhythm and swing

Eddie Gomez photo.jpg

Photo by Claudio Casanova

There’s been a lot of talk in the jazz world of late about the quality of the music, with musicians and critics alike complaining that some players are nothing more than wannabe rock stars masquerading as jazz musicians.

Jazz enthusiasts with eclectic tastes surely know that the concept of art depends in part on the listener. But for music to be jazz, it needs rhythm, melody and swing.

The secret of the music also lies in its roots. As the trumpeter Nicholas Payton puts it, “the cure is the same as it’s always been – the blues.”

That concept isn’t lost among the music’s elder statesmen, among them bassist Eddie Gomez, a graceful, versatile and creative performer perhaps best known for his role in the Bill Evans trio. The bassist performs tonight at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul.

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Gomez grew up in New York City, where he studied at Julliard and performed with a long list of influential performers, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Gerry Mulligan.

During the 1960s and 70s, he was the bassist for Evans, one of the most influential jazz musicians of the last century. A prolific performer, he has also played with pianist Chick Corea and worked as a studio musician for a variety of pop musicians.

Gomez also has led a number of his own groups, showcasing his ability to play traditional, modern and Latin jazz. He can play a mean blues and push the tempo.

But although Gomez often displays bursts of power and dominates the stage he can play with quiet and intense artistry, as he did with guitarist Jim Hall on the Bill Evans composition Very Early. It’s a beautiful tune featured on the bassist’s 1988 CD Power Play, largely a foray into modern music.

On stage and in recordings, the bassist delivers a varied technique of plucking and bowing, displaying his skill at melodic solos, increasingly a lost art in jazz. He appeared recently on the NPR show Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.

He will be joined onstage by Stefan Karlsson on piano and Rodrigo Villanueva on drums.

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