The evolution of this recording stems from Harold Danko's long friendship with producer George GaIip, Jr. Acquainted with each other since earlier years in Youngstown, Ohio, Galip had exerted his enthusiasm for Danko via the decision to hear him play with Joe LaBarbera, Marc Johnson, and Michael Moore, and making a demo record was the resulting first step. "We had no idea it would end up an entire album," says Danko. "And what really worked were the romantic things, even though we did some up tempo stuff. These were eliminated in favor of the mood established throughout the project. It was George's idea to include strings on a couple of tracks as well as to use Bob Dorough's vocal. He knows that side of me and wanted to bring it out."
Those familiar with Danko's sensitive, fiery, even ferocious piano are well aware of his virility on hot tempo directions. Certainly his in-person performances and recorded work from solo to small groups and big bands (notably Woody Herman and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra) attest to his prowess. However, a dimension of Danko's array of expressiveness and freshness is his deep, unconstricted romanticism - something less recognized.
Note too, that the foursome - Danko, bassists Marc Johnson and Michael Moore, and drummer Joe LaBarbera - are all alumni of Woody Herman's Herds. Another interesting associative aspect is that the latter three also performed as members of the Bill Evans Trio: Moore with Philly Joe Jones, and Johnson and LaBarbera with Evans until his passing in 1980. The variegated elements of LaBarbera, Johnson, Moore, and Danko are models of timbral inventiveness, providing sumptuous listening experiences. About Woody Herman, Danko observed. "Yeah, 'The Chopper' - he's around! He put us all on the map, essentially." And he continues, "Some of my most favorite guys in the world are on this project with me Joe, a close friend, was responsible for getting me the gig with Woody. And I love Marc and Michael in the way they make me play in different ways, but within the way I want to express myself. This can be achieved because all three of them listen so completely."
From the first few moments of the recording, you enter the process of being drawn into Danko's idiomatic concept of a mood album/compact disc (surely not synonymous with the more conventional, commercial connotation of the term "mood"!) Danko's taxonomic reference is trenchantly embodied in the lofty realm of his three favorite recordings which communicate a certain kind of 'mood": Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue." Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil,' and Bill Evans's "Village Vanguard Sessions. The opening tune on Danko's record was written back in 1967 and is logically named Wayne Shorter. "I was inspired by Wayne during those years. So the music I've written is somewhat in his direction compositionally,” says Danko.
"Martina is my cousin in Czechoslovakia who really affected me: she was an extraordinary eight year-old girl when I met her in 1981," reveals Danko. The tune is reminiscent of what Alec Wilder might have written - a portrait with melodic poignancy and lightly moving inner voicings. Danko delivers a quiescent, uncomplicated line coupled with a sincere atmosphere. Joe LaBarbera 's brother John. who wrote the string arrangement, extended that beautiful feeling.
The very nature of the process of jazz improvisation/composition produces fruitful pools of genetically instantaneous ideas, resulting in some being deflected or discarded if they are left to the course of the creative act of sorting out and utilizing only those musical parts that spur the composer to develop them further. It hen Everything Gets Quiet illustrates the salvage of the chaff and recycling it into a viable statement. Danko describes his experience with his co-writer Hank Herrings: "Hank kept telling me what jazz musicians throw away when improvising - valid compositional fragments. Hank developed "When Everything Gets Quiet" from something I had played spontaneously and didn't intend to keep. Hey, but we have a new tune!"
The title selection Alone But Not Forgotten was inspired by Harold's love of Brazilian music, especially the work of Edison Machado, the great drummer whose playing has influenced Danko's phrasing: Antonio Carlos Jobim's single note piano lines: and singer Elis Regina, inspiring Danko's composition and its floating, elongated melody. Incidentally, it is tastefully enhanced by the parallel concept and color palette of John LaBarbera 's shimmering strings. Danko carries his own torch in his gorgeous Brazilian-compassed piano. As for the import of the title, Danko says, 'It's a tune I wrote that projects my feelings. I spend a lot of time alone but don't feel forgotten. It's about a romantic feeling that doesn't involve being with another... not even about nostalgia, but just about oneness and knowing that there are memories of the past and there's a future. "Danko's explanation does sum up this whole effort and the title is an apt choice.
A lovely waltz I have been fond of since it was recorded in 1958 is Liz Ann, a Cal Tjader record which included Stan Getz, Vince Guaraldi. Scott La Faro, and Billy Higgins. It was named for Cal and Pat Tjader's daughter In shedding light on the tune's origin. I shared the brief background herein with Danko, who was delighted to discover the tune was written fora child. "I find it totally intriguing since Martina was written fora little girl:' Danko remarks. I first heard Liz Ann on a Clare Fischer album (1969) and I transcribed it immediately and have been playing it ever since.' (Fischer was exposed to the tune Liz Ann and knew Liz since he was the pianist for Tjader's band off and on through a block of years.) Danko and I both wondered why Bill Evans had not discovered the tune."
Candlelight Shadows" is something I found through improvising into tape, which I crafted into something afterwards,'' notes Danko. "You get certain moods through certain chords and it's a rather difficult piece to approach chordally." It conveys a mood with images of a nice, warm, candlelit room with shadows flickering.
A Brazilian tune with intrigue imbedded in the chords, "0 Circo Mistico" was composed by Edu Lobo. ''It's about circuses in Brazil and it's another one of those tunes that possibly would have interested Bill Evans," says Danko. The kinship between Danko and Evans's approach, voicing, conception, touch, and other qualities is a close one, so it is unavoidable that references surface in this regard.
Speaking of Evans: "My favorite Bill Evans tune is Laurie:' volunteers Danko. Lyrics and the arrangement were written by Bob Dorough especially for this session. He also sings on the track, sounding snuggingly right for the piece. A dreamy quality wraps around this appealingly pretty closer of the disc, communicating a genuinely natural air This tune is a magnificent ending punctuation mark to one of the loveliest statements on the recording.
I'm really a composer-player and now I'm more confident to stay with the character of what a piece calls for: for example, if it calls for playing with no restraint, then I do so. But if it calls for something pretty, I hope to stay pretty for five minutes or more,'' says Danko. Consequently, this cache of Danko's romanticism may catch some people off guard. As Danko says, 'I haven't been known for my romantic bent. I've been more effective making an impression in getting a rhythm section to cook."
This disc is best taken as a collective work rather than viewing it from a reductionistic perspective. So the title of the project, "Alone But Not Forgotten”, is not to convey a somber, dark, shadowy attitude by any means. Instead, it carries a feeling of lightness, of luminosity - reinforced by the bright aura of the cover art. Danko's lyrical notes sparkle like jewels dancing on water. He, indeed, does play elegantly, on vivid stretches of openly warm, emotional heat and passionate power. Harold Danko has carved new niches, shaping the future.
This is truly a tantalizing class album with much promise for being considered a classic recording. Its radiance uncontrollably invites repeated listening.
Reviews"All the participants are Woody Herman alumni and three worked with Bill Evans. While this is mainly a trio session, with Moore and Johnson trading places in various tunes, there are a couple of interesting twists. One is the singing of Bob Dorough on Laurie. The other is the addition of a string section used sparingly and tastefully on two cuts." - Ken Franckling Jazz Times