Some Other Time By Bill Evans

September 19, 2016

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Bill Evans was one of the premier jazz pianists of the 20th century.  His technical expertise was unparalleled but it was his ability for conveying motion that set him apart from most of his contemporaries.

The Bill Evans Trio had performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival June 15, 1968. Five days later they were coaxed into a recording studio by German jazz producers Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer and Joachim-Ernst Berendt. The trio recorded more than an albums worth of material but due to label contractual obligations, an album was never released. Now, almost 50 years later, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest finally sees the light of day as a two-disc, 21 track set. Adding to the authenticity of the set are interviews with surviving trio members Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette, a number of incisive essays by people originally involved in the project, plus many archival photos from the period.

What makes the release unique and so historically important to the fans of Evans is the trio itself. While bassist Gomez played with Evans for years, DeJohnette was only a part of the trio for six months and this is the first studio album to feature his drumming.

By 1968 Evans was an established force in jazz music. His was just finishing his swing period and was moving in a direction that would become known as his percussive poet years. The addition of Gomez had given his rhythm section a foundational depth lacking in the past. DeJohnette added more layering with a delicate yet dramatic approach in which the cymbals played a prominent part.

This is not an album of demos and doodles but rather a spontaneously created full studio album.

The trio relies heavily on material from the Great American Songbook. Songs such as “What Kind Of Fool Am I,” “I’ll Remember April,” “My Funny Valentine,” “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” and “Baubles, Bangles And Beads” are all presented with conviction and passion as Evans explores the textures of the melodies and brings out some extra depths hidden in the songs.

Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest has been a gem in hiding for nearly five decades. It catches a jazz legend at a crossroads of his career as he begins to move in a new direction. A must for all jazz aficionados.

 


The Definitive Bill Evans On Riverside and Fantasy by David Bowling

August 6, 2011

Just about all Bill Evans’ material is worth checking out. He was one of the most influential of the 1950s and 1960s jazz pianists, and his style is still being imitated today. While he wrote a number of well-known jazz classics, it was his improvisational skill with pop songs and their melodies that made him unique.

He began his career during the 1950s as a sideman for such jazz musicians as Charles Mingus, Tony Scott, and Art Farmer. He began releasing his own albums during 1956 and continued to issue material until his death in 1980.

His music now returns as part of the Concord Music Group’s Definitive Series. The 25 tracks deal with two specific periods of his career. His most creative period was his time with the Riverside label, 1956-1962, and disc one presents much of his key work for the label. The second disc primarily focuses upon his time with the Fantasy label, 1973-1977. The 1970s find a mature artist who may not have been as creative as during the early part of his career, but was still able to produce an interesting body of work. The missing decade was spent with the Verve label, which was much more diverse and experimental than what proceeded and followed it.

There are a number of highlights from his Riverside years. “Speak Low” was taken from his first album, which sold less than 1000 copies at the time of its release. It catches him at the beginning of his development as a jazz pianist of note as he was leaving the be-bop style behind. “Peace Piece” was an original composition and is presented without accompaniment. The best way to become acquainted with a jazz pianist is to hear him play solo. It was some of the most free form playing of his career as the music builds upon a series of scales.

His classic trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian are represented by a studio track, “Beautiful Love,” plus their famous live performances at the Village Vanguard during June of 1961 come to life with “My Foolish Heart,” “Waltz For Debby,” and the LaFaro composition “Gloria’s Stop.” These performances remain poignant as LaFaro died in an auto accident ten days later.

By the time he reached the Fantasy label, he had settled into a relaxed style that remained with him until his death. His early material for the label with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell are represented by live versions of “On Green Dolphin Road,” “Turn Out The Stars,” and “Re: Person I Knew.” It is interesting to compare this trio with that of the early 1960s.

Other highlights include “Young and Foolish” with vocalist Tony Bennett; another solo performance “The Touch Of Your Lips,” which at over seven minutes gives a good introduction to his 1970s style; and “A Child Is Born,” which finds him in a bigger group setting with guitarist Kenny Burrell and saxophonist Harold Land.

As with all the albums in the series, the sound has been enhanced to keep the focus on the individual instruments. It comes with a nice booklet which contains an essay by Doug Ramsey providing an extensive overview of Evans’ career and the tracks contained on the album.

The Definitive Bill Evans On Riverside and Fantasy is a excellent summary of many of the highlights of his career. If you have not been exposed to the music of Bill Evans, this is a good place to start.

Article first published as Music Review: Bill Evans – The Definitive Bill Evans On Riverside And Fantasy on Blogcritics.


Know What I Mean? by Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans

July 2, 2011

Know What I Meanby Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans is one of six new releases by The Concord Music Group in their ongoing Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series.

Cannonball Adderley, 1928-1975, was an influential and creative saxophonist who released close to 50 studio and live albums, in addition to being a prolific sideman during his three decade career. During the late 1950s he joined Miles Davis’ group for several years where he met pianist Bill Evans.

While he would achieve a great amount of recognition and commercial success with the Capital label during the mid to late 1960s, it was his time with the Riverside label, 1958-1963, that is considered his most important period. He released 17 albums for the label, but few more important than 1961’s Know What I Meanwith Bill Evans. It now returns in a cleaned-up form thanks to 24-bit remastering. Orrin Keepnews, who produced the original recording sessions, returns to write the new liner notes. The original album notes by Joe Goldberg are also included as are three bonus tracks.

Adderley recorded the album with three supporting musicians. Bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay form a solid rhythm section. It was his old sidekick, Bill Evans, who proved to be the inspired choice. He was one of jazz music’s seminal pianists and his influence is felt throughout the album. His moody tempo changes meshed well with Adderley’s pulsing rhythms.

Two Evans tunes and one of his favorites appear on the album. “Waltz For Debby” was one of his most famous compositions. It was a true jazz waltz, written in 1956, and a constant part of his stage act. Adderley’s saxophone, as a central instrument, brings a new dimension to this piano classic. Evans’ title song was created especially for the album. The guitar/sax interplay was reminiscent of their time with Miles Davis. Evans had previously recorded the Earl Zindars composition, “Elsa.” Here he changes some of the notes and adds Adderley’s saxophone to the mix.

“Toy” may be the most interesting track as Adderley’s playing goes more in an Ornette Coleman direction. “Goodbye” will always be associated with Benny Goodman. Composed during 1935, it served as his concert closer for a number or years. Adderley captures the textures and emotions just right. “Who Cares” is a welcome change of pace that allows Adderley and Evans to explore the basic theme.

Know What I Mean is a unique album in the Adderley catalogue as he moves his approach a little toward Evans’ style of music. While it comes close to being a duet album, ultimately Adderley’s saxophone soars above the mix in many places. It is an essential addition for any jazz collection.

Article first published as Music Review: Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans – Know What I Mean? on Blogcritics.


Waltz For Debby by Bill Evans

November 25, 2010

Bill Evans, August 16, 1929–September 15, 1980, is regarded as one of the best and most influential jazz pianists of all time. The apex of his work was the four albums he recorded as the Bill Evans Trio with bassist Scott Lafaro and drummer Paul Motian.

They expanded both the jazz trio concept through their interplay and individual solos, plus the use of the piano as an interactive jazz instrument. Evans would almost deconstruct a song through his skill at the piano. They would set a standard that many jazz artists would follow in the future.

Waltz For Debby was one of two albums recorded at the Village Vanguard on June 25, 1961, during a five-set performance. It was the last release by his original trio as Lafaro was killed in a car accident less than two weeks after its appearance.

Waltz For Debby remains a Bill Evans classic and a milestone in the history of jazz music. Released during late 1961, it now returns as a part of The Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Masters Series. The sound is crystal clear and five bonus tracks have been added.

While three are different takes of the album’s original songs, they remain interesting for the subtle differences that appear. “Discussing Repertoire” is only 30 seconds long and could have been eliminated. The gem is “Porgy (I Love You),” which at over six minutes presents the trio in all their interactive glory.

The original liner notes are included, which are always welcome. The written gem of the set is the four-page essay about the performance by 87-year-old Orrin Keepnews, who was one of the founders of the Riverside label on which the album was originally released. He was at the performance and was the producer for the album 49 years ago.

The title track was a musical portrait of his niece. It appeared as a short piano performance on his 1956 debut album. It returned on this album in a filled out, elongated form and would become his signature song.

“My Foolish Heart” was a pop standard that first saw life in the film of the same name where it earned an Oscar nomination. Evans would turn it into a slow tempo jazz number, a style which would be covered by generations of jazz artists that followed.

Evans was a member of The Miles Davis Sextet for eight months and while their time together was short, it would be productive for both. Evans covers Davis’ famous “Milestones.” He twists and turns the song through the use of the trio’s three instruments but is always true to its intent.

The career of Bill Evans would come to a tragic conclusion at the age of 51. His longtime use of heroin and cocaine caused his body to finally give out. He is buried in Rose Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Baron Rouge, Louisiana.

Waltz For Debby remains a classic Bill Evans release and a center piece in the history of American jazz.

Article first published as on Blogcritics.org