Billy Childs – Bedtime Stories
(32 Jazz – 2000)
by John Barrett
Herbie Hancock can be introspective or downright funky often in the same song. In Miles’ band he was a perfect match, blending elements of Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly … a spellbinding sound, captured by Billy Childs in this tribute to Herbie. A forceful left hand opens “Ain’t No Sunshine”, with Billy Hart drizzling the cymbals. It’s slow and soulful; then comes the echo-filled bridge, with intertwined notes and the force of a river. This is Herbie’s Blue Note sound, dazzling in its perfection; the low-down feeling returns, and the two moods spar for the rest of the song.
There’s a smidgen of theme on “Speak Like a Child”; the rest is Billy, spinning softly on thick chords. George Mraz sounds like a heart beat strong and warm and very persistent. His swoops bring elegance to Sting’s “Fragile”, as Childs gives the tune an airy formality. This music takes its time, painting its atmosphere in impressionist shades. That describes Hancock as well as anything.
“Toys” moves like a slick rollercoaster: from a slow beginning Billy pounds a storm, with notes that grow into block chords. (Hart’s solo is equally busy, and an equal delight.) “Jessica” climbs ever higher: as the cymbals boils, the piano glows with hope. It’s another effortless mood; the album is full of them. Hart brings a grand shimmer to “Dolphin Dance”, thanks to his vibrant brushes; “Sophisticated Lady” has a deep polish and a sculpted solo. The sendoff is prime: “MaidenVoyage”, with a delicate right hand, and the left bringing those famous chords. Hart clicks softly, the bass zooms, and Billy floats, stirring up power from the ocean. Needless to say, these “Stories” speak volumes.