2 LP on 1 CD
Empathy 1962 Verve (## 1-6)
recorded at New York, August 14, 1962
All Music Guide
A Simple Matter of Conviction 1966 Verve (## 7-15)
recorded at New York, October 4, 1966
What separated this from the average good Bill Evans date was the inclusion of Shelly Manne on drums, who inventively pushed and took unexpected chances. This was, I believe, Eddie Gomez' (bass) debut release with Evans (piano) and it was quite impressive. There were numerous takes at this session and judging from Chuck Briefer's liners it might be interesting to hear them released.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
You run into some weird fans in nightclubs where Bill Evans is appearing. Among them have been theatergoers, musicologists, a concert harpsichordist, hippies, a college professor and his 16-year-old son (who brought whom?), mods, folk followers, civil servants, and a great number of musicians. (Once when Evans played at Shelly's Manne Hole in Los Angeles, owner Shelly Manne asked Evans to take Tuesday off instead of Monday, so that local musicians could come and hear him on their night off.) Evans fans hate noise. Nightclubs often resemble seminars during his sets.
Evans, a quiet man, doesn't fare too well under such intense adulation. Temperamentally, he might have been better suited to the life of a composer / orchestrator, creating on his own secluded terms instead of those of the public. But, because it's been his fortune to be a brilliant pianist, he's spent most of his musical life out in the open, on stage. He compensates his talent with his temperament by drawing into the piano. Thus, in an almost painful attitude, he makes music that is almost painfully beautiful.
Evans has made an indelible mark on today's jazz. Scores of pianists are under his influence; using his fragile voicings, his economical chord movements, borrowing the implied time in his left hand and the off-center rhythmic runs in his right. "When you hear someone play a song with as much Tightness as Bill does," one of them has said, "what should you do? Reject his ideas on the ground that you didn't think of them first?" Willis Conover, of The Voice of America, has stated that in Europe, most young jazz pianists emulate Evans frankly and proudly because "he's the only thing happening." In America, not all pianists acknowledge Evans' stature, but even some of the dissenters sound like scaled-down copies of the innovator they do not recognize.
Evanites tend to pester record store dealers, awaiting each new release. For them, this is a good day. In this album, Evans works with a new combination of sidemen. The drummer is Shelly Manne, with whom Evans made an earlier album.
Manne flew from Los Angeles to New York just to make this album. If necessary, he'd probably have flown to Bangkok for the occasion. Manne is an incurable Evans fan. This is a somewhat lighter Shelly Manne than one might expect. "Whenever I play with Bill," he said after the date, "I try to stay out of the way because everything he does is so important." Nevertheless, the irrepressible Manne humor and outwardness shine through, providing an interesting contrast to Evans' introversion.
The bass player is Eddie Gomez, who has worked with Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis and Marian McPartland, and is now a regular member of the Evans trio. You think you've heard fast bass players, right? Gomez makes jaws drop. But speed is hollow unless it goes somewhere. Gomez flows with ideas. The interplay between him and Evans promises to be one of the most rewarding blends since Tony Bennett met Bobby Hackett. The fat, warm tone Gomez produces is no recording trick. He sounds that way on stage too. Sometimes good things come in young packages. Gomez is 21.
There are four Evans originals in this set, including the title tune, a minor blues called A Simple Matter Of Conviction. Those who are acquainted with Evans may smile at how well the title fits. For Evans' depth of musicality is such that what may be a dense and complex matter to others is quite simple to him. "Here's what I mean," Evans might say, sitting down at the piano to play an awesome 16 bars of something. "It's self-explanatory, really." If chord structures were fabrics, then Evans1 pieces would be fine silk, as opposed to loose-knit wool. Their spell is mesmeric. Unless It's You weaves two chord changes into every bar in a shape that ascends, levels off, then superbly ascends once more. Only Child is as sad as its name, while These Things Called Changes is bright and sweeping.
Evans has a way of defining standards. He does so here on Star Eyes, beginning with a solo chorus in C, then moving fluidly into E-flat. So facile is his playing that frequent key changes might go unnoticed except in terms of dynamic right-ness. For those of you who have forgotten what a pretty song My Melancholy Baby is, Evans gives it back to you here. Many of these tracks were completed on the first take. Everyone went home feeling pretty good; the musicians, the A&R man, the engineer, even Evans who, like all good recording artists, is choosy about final takes. Speaking of Bill Evans fans, you run into a lot of them in the recording booth every time he makes an album.
-Morgan Ames (Contributing Editor, High Fidelity Magazine)
Bill Evans makes music. He makes it like glittering, intricate steel sculpture. There are four million notes in an Evans piece, and if you take out so much as one, there'll be a hole big enough to drive a tractor through. Leave it alone and the gears mesh so smoothly, you don't hear anything but pure, quintessential sound.
Writing liner notes from the raw, unedited tapes is an exciting business. It's all there-the takes, the retakes, the aches and the mistakes. The first time you put the reel on, everything's new and a little strange. But you have a job to do, so you rewind and start all over again. And after a while you feel yourself moving into the scene. You could almost swear you're actually at the recording session, and when, occasionally, the cement falls out of the works, you can almost see Bill scratch his head as he mumbles a sorrowful "Gee, I don't know..."
Some of the numbers in this album got through on the first take. But genius is 99 percent perspiration, somebody said (Steinmetz? Edison?), and some of the numbers took a little work. Unless It's You-two takes; Laura-two takes; Only Child and A Simple Matter Of Conviction- four and four. It was on the second take of Conviction that Bill murmured, "I don't know".
As you'll soon find out for yourself, this was the highest flight of the evening, and it just wouldn't come down for a conventional ending. Every time Bill, bass player Eddie Gomez, and drummer Shelly Manne tried to dovetail into some kind of a landing pattern, they wobbled out of the clouds and collapsed in an ungainly heap. Then a ray of hope from the control-room squawk-box: "Do it again, Bill; we're going to take you out." So they do it again, and they sail around up there to their hearts' content. After a while the pots are eased down, slowly and judiciously, and Conviction spins off into the void. Pretty. And when was it, in Bill's own composition Only Child, that Bill's fingers knotted up? It sounded as though he'd gotten lost-thus Shelly's too solicitous jibe, "You want a lead-sheet?" Bill, with a small laugh, noodles the theme with his right hand: "I'm just thinking."4 Well, we're all human.
So in the end, what have you got? Nine tunes by Bill Evans, et al. Five are standards, and some of these are so standard they're very nearly ossified. Bill shakes them till their teeth rattle. I'm thinking particularly of My Melancholy Baby. An Evans tune usually fits its title, but here is the most euphoric melancholy this side of the Odd Fellows' Home. Or Stella By Starlight: the girl gets a real facelift. The bones-that is, the basic chords-are there, intact, but Bill surrounds each one with a lightning-quick succession of changes that come and go like fireflies. Of the Evans originals, I'm particularly partial to the pale warmth of the inward-looking Only Child, and the wide, spiral swings of Unless It's You, notching their way ever upward till they're home again. By the way, Unless It's You originally went under the title of Orbit. Very apt.
Then there's A Simple Matter Of Conviction; I'm glad it's the title number, and I'm glad it's first. I'm even glad it took four takes to get it right, because I learned a lot just watching it grow.