Bob Florence: Friends Treasures Heroes

About eight years ago, Bob Florence and I were guests at the same birthday party in Los Angeles. Toward the end of the evening, Florence wandered over the piano in the living room and began, quietly, to play. People gathered around, of course. He played “Emily” and “Laura,” I remember, and someone asked him which of those beautiful women he loved best. Florence only smiled. It was all quite enchanted.

This album is very much like that night. Florence is alone at the piano, ruminating over some of his favorite songs. His choices become a single, long, softly luminous unfolding, songs melding from one to another (“Invitation/Green Dolphin Street,” “Whippoorwill/Nobody Else But Me/I’m Old Fashioned”). One of the medleys, “Just Friends/Wind Beneath My Wings,” becomes a repeated interlude and connects all the other segments. He does not play “Emily,” but he caresses two other shamelessly romantic Johnny Mandel songs, “A Time for Love/The Shadow of Your Smile,” then breaks them up and mixes their fragments together.

The mood is never once broken and the music moves as slowly as a man picking his way among memories at a very late hour. Even if you were not at that party, you would have to have a heart of stone not to like this record.

Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.