More than 25 years after his death, pianist Bill Evans maintains the power to draw musicians helplessly into his lyrical universe. Flamenco guitarist Nino Josele, his career already in full swing, came late to Evans, but when he did, the obsession hit hard. Paz is the Spaniard’s heartfelt and immensely winning tribute to the influential instrumentalist and composer. Concentrating on standards and signature tunes that Evans personalized rather than on the pianist’s original songs—only “Waltz for Debby,” “Turn Out the Stars” and the sketchy “Peace Piece” are represented from among Evans’ beauties—Josele enlists American players sympathetic to Evans’ reflective sensibilities, including saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeters Tom Harrell and Jerry Gonzalez, vocalist Freddy Cole and Marc Johnson, the last bassist to work with Evans. A pianist is conspicuously missing.
The unencumbered emotional directness that Josele regularly conveys, as well as his reluctance to showboat with flashy technique, rubs off on his guests. Spare and moving performances by Cole on “I Do It for Your Love,” Gonzalez on “Never Let Me Go,” Harrell on “My Foolish Heart” and Lovano on “The Peacocks” reflect well on Josele’s ability to cast a defining mood of delicacy over the project. Three introspective solo guitar pieces and a flamenco take on “Turn Out the Stars” ground the recording with Iberian flavoring. While Evans’ significant influence shows little sign of diminishing in the country of his birth, albums like Paz give heartening proof that his soft-spoken genius still speaks loudly to players worldwide.