Recorded at New York, December 28, 1959
The first of two studio albums by the Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro-Paul Motian trio (both of which preceded their famous engagement at the Village Vanguard), this CD reissue contains some wondrous interplay, particularly between pianist Evans and bassist LaFaro on the two versions of "Autumn Leaves." Other than introducing Evans' "Peri's Scope," the music is comprised of standards but the influential interpretations were far from routine or predictable at the time. LaFaro and Motian were nearly equal partners with the pianist in the ensembles and their versions of such tunes as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "When I Fall in Love" and "Someday My Prince Will Come" (which preceded Miles Davis' famous recording by a couple years) are full of subtle and surprising creativity. A gem.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
For quite some time now, we at Riverside have been unshakably confident of the correctness of our strong belief that Bill Evans is a jazz artist not only of immense importance but also of tremendous appeal. A great many musicians have shared this opinion, and a steadily growing number of critics. The only question was just how long it would take the jazz public at large to sense and respond to this appeal, to succumb to the magic of this young pianist's deep, lyrical beauty and remarkable inventiveness.
By the end of 1959, when this album was recorded, this question was beginning to be answered quite clearly. As one indication, Evans, who had twice been named "New Star" pianist in Down Beat's Critics Poll, catapulted past any number of established 'names' as he rose from a far-out 20th place in 1958 to a close-in 6th in that magazine's 1959 Readers Poll. Equally impressive was the rapid success of the trio that Bill formed late in 1959 and took on cross-country tour early in '60. There would seem to be a definite feeling in the air, that almost-mystical aura that marks the arrival of an artist. And if there are any lingering doubts about his stature or any remaining barriers to widespread general acceptance and recognition of Evans, this album should supply the clincher, should make it obvious that 1960 is Bill Evans time.
Much evidence of the growing Evans tide is to be found in the reactions to his previous Riverside album:
"Everybody Digs Bill Evans." Looking back on it, it now seems rather frighteningly dangerous to have pinned so extravagant a title on an LP by a comparative unknown. Actually, the title was validly based on the fact that the album cover features strong pro-Evans comments by Miles Davis Cannonball Adderley, Ahmad Jamal and George Shearing. (To which the diffident Mr. Evans, perhaps a bit embarrassed by our approach, commented: "Why didn't you ask my mother for a quote?") Nevertheless, we were surely leaving Bill wide open to all sorts of caustic remarks from clever-penned critics. But apparently the considerable talents of Evans overrode this danger: although the album was extremely widely reviewed, not a single unfavorable reaction has come to light. The general lone was a rather awed a mission that the "everybody digs" claim was not out of line. As the Kansas City Star's reviewer put it: "The immodest claim ... is justified." And when before this has any artist, without benefit of previous buildup, drawn raves from both McCall's and The Jazz Review, and from (to get even more extreme) both Scholastic Magazine and Rogue!
All this is highly impressive, and so are the authoritative quotes that are readily available ("brilliant . . . one of the most interesting pianists in several years" -Ralph Gleason; "important . . . most inventive" - Nat Hentoff; and so on). But all of this should not lead anyone to expect to find on this LP a dramatic, shouting, obvious crowd-pleaser. Evans is above all a melodic, probing, rich-toned artist; his playing is deceptively calm, and (in the very best sense of a much-abused word) charming. Such qualities are very much in evidence here.
As in his previous albums. Bill takes great delight in reworking familiar material to his own design. You may have heard several of these standards until you v. ere ready to bet your life that nothing fresh could ever again be extracted from them. If so, you were wrong. The 'singing' Evans touch, the "long, supple melodic lines' (to quote Hentoff), and the rare ability "to make his conception of a number seem the definitive way to play it" (to quote Cannonball) combine give such staples as Come Rain or Come Shine and What Is This Thing Called Love? new and fascinating vitality and richness. There is also something as unlooked_for as his treatment of the waltz Some Day My Prince Will Come (from Disney's "Snow White," yet); and there are examples of Evans' skill as a composer in the rhythmic Peri's Scope and in the moody Blue in Green, jointly credited to Bill and his ex-leader. Miles Davis.
The other members of Evans' present trio offer him effective, close-knit and most understanding support, which is not always limited to the conventional rhythmic backing. Worthy of particular attention in this respect is Autumn Leaves, in which Evans and the remarkable young bassist, Scott LaFaro, point towards an innovation close to Bill's heart. He has noted that "I'm hoping the trio will grow in the direction of simultaneous improvisation rather than just one guy blowing followed by another guy blowing. If the bass player, for example, hears an idea that he wants to answer, why should he just keep playing a background?"
BILL EVANS, born in New Jersey in August, 1929, is a thoroughly schooled musician (private study; Southeastern Louisiana College; the Mannes School of Music in New York) whose varied jazz experience includes most importantly a 1958 stay with Miles Davis' sextet. Bill credits that association with having done much to increase his self-confidence, a point that takes on added significance when you consider that for quite a while it looked as just about the only person who didn't dig.. Bill Evans was Bill Evans. Intensely self-critical and self-demanding, Bill let two years intervene between his first and second LPs because, he insisted, he "didn't have anything particularly different to say." However, only one year separated that second album from this third one, which seems a hopeful indication. And, now that he is meeting with such gratifying success as a leader, it is perhaps fairly safe to hope that we can all look forward to the pleasure of hearing Bill Evans on record at more normal' intervals.
Notes written by Orrin Keepnews. Cover designed by Paul Bacon-Ken Braren-Harris Lewine. Back-liner photo by Lawrence N. Shustak. Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios). Riverside-Reeves Spectrosonic High Fidelity Engineering.
This album was recorded when stereo was still in its infancy. After the session, we discovered that the preferred version of "Autumn Leaves" had not been properly taped in stereo. My decision at the time was to use the choice take on the monaural album and a close second-best on the stereo (although no indication of this appears on the original liners). Both are included here, as they were on the Milestone 'twofer' Spring Leaves (M-47034). Take 2 of "Blue in Green" was originally almost-approved by artist and producer; I'm still not sure why Evans finally picked Take 3 to be issued. Everything here is in the boxed set, Bill Evans: The Complete Riverside Recordings (T3-018), but this Compact Disc release combines both versions of "Autumn Leaves" plus both "Blue in Green" takes for the first time.