Kevin Hays Trio – You’ve Got a Friend – Jazz Eyes 006 (Italy), 48:57 ***1/2:

(Kevin Hays, piano; Doug Weiss, bass; Bill Stewart, drums)

You’ve Got a Friend,
the new Jazz Eyes label piano trio release from Kevin Hays, must have been a lot of fun for Kevin to record. Composed of three pop covers and then four jazz standards, Hays plays a straight interpretation of Carole King’s title track, then proves his mettle as a creative artist by putting his own interpretation on the rest of the tracks.

Paul Simon’s most famous composition, Bridge Over Troubled Water, lets bassist Doug Weiss provide the famous melody (in a Charlie Haden “folk” style), then Hays embellishes Simon’s melody with flourishes taken at a walking pace. It has a gospel vibe that is quite moving. McCartney’s Fool on the Hill, would be hard to recognize for many Beatles fans with just hints of McCartney’s theme, but a close listen brings enough of the pop melody to satisfy both jazz and pop fans.

The balance of the CD is devoted to jazz. Monk’s Think of One has the staggered mannerisms of the master’s composition but adds swing feel to brighten up the mix and Kevin wails, driven by Stewart’s drums. Bob Dorough’s Nothing Like You is given a thorough workout, but retains the lyricism of the original. It is on Bird’s Cheryl, where Hays’ off minor reading brings more Monk to this track than Think of One received.

Hays shows his wide-ranging talent on this most interesting mix of styles and unpredictable readings.

TrackList: You’ve Got a Friend, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Fool on the Hill, Think of One, Sweet and Lovely, Nothing Like You, Cheryl

– Jeff Krow