This long-lost session, not released initially until 1982, features pianist Bill Evans, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Philly Joe Jones interpreting seven of the pianist's recent originals. Due to some difficulties during the recording process (none of the sidemen were familiar with the often-complex numbers), the results were originally shelved and lost for a couple of decades. This CD reissue shows that the music was actually much better than originally thought. While "Time Remembered," "Funkallero" and "My Bells" would become Evans standards, it is quite interesting to hear such forgotten obscurities as "Loose Bloose" (heard in two versions), "There Came You," "Fun Ride" and "Fudgesickle Built for Four;" a couple of the songs could stand to be revived. It is a pity that Evans and Zoot (a logical combination) never did record together again.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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The late Bill Evans was one of the most innovative and influential piano stylists of his day. Since that "day" ended only a relatively short time ago, with his death in September 1980, it remains impossible to judge how far-reaching and long-lasting his influence will be. But if the depth and the extent of his impact on jazz performers of the past two decades is a reliable clue, we will be hearing partial and complete would-be Bill Evans clones for quite some time to come.
In one way, this is certainly not to be regretted: provided that enough future followers display much the same degree of taste and talent as has been shown by such artists as (just to pick two random examples) Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, jazz listeners and the future libraries of recorded music can only gain. But looking at it another way, to be such a thorough influence both on your contemporaries and on succeeding generations poses certain dangers to the artistic status of the innovator. After a while, the original works may no longer seem as fresh and adventurous when we return to them - simply because we have heard so much music in approximately the same vein. Even worse, listening to various self-appointed disciples who actually only grasp (and consequently exaggerate) one aspect of the master's style almost inevitably tends to leave a lopsided and diluted memory of what the original artist was really trying to say.
Louis Armstrong, who was the first to do so many things in jazz, may well have been the first to suffer from this. Certainly the legends and legacies of pioneers like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane have at times been at least momentarily tarnished by the work of decidedly lesser performers who claimed to be following in the path of the master. Evans, even during his lifetime, was similarly somewhat victimized by more than a few pallid pianists capable of playing old pop ballads at slow tempos with a few modal quirks thrown in, presumably sounding "just like Bill Evans" but actually very much missing the point.
One way of appreciation how far off the mark such players are - and of recognizing as well the shortsightedness of listeners and critics who stereotype Bill as a Debussy-ridden specialist in languid mood music - is to pay attention to the several examples of other aspects of his playing, to the non-introspective and occasionally even non-trio Evans.
It is of course true that ever since December 1958, when he ended an eight-month stay with the Miles Davis Sextet, Bill appeared in public almost exclusively as the leader of his own trio. There's certainly no question about that being his preferred and most comfortable setting, and there's also no doubt that if a running statistical count had been kept for two decades it would have shown many more down tunes than up.
But there were times when those trio sets swung like mad - and that more often than not corresponded to the several different periods when Philly Joe Jones was his drummer. Their association had begun when Bill joined Miles in the spring of '58, and even though it was very shortly thereafter that Joe left the band (or was fired, or both - his relationship with Davis having always been a rather temperamental one), their influence on each other remained substantial.
A Miles Davis album that prominently includes Evans, the ground-breaking Kind of Blue, is an excellent place to begin paying particular attention to the more forceful and aggressive elements in his playing. The swinging involved doesn't really have too much to do with tempo, because what I'm referring to is much more a matter of what gets called playing "hard" or (even on a slow ballad) "with fire" than of playing fast. The drummer on Kind of Blue is not Jones, but his successor. Jimmy Cobb. So what is heard are two of the three elements that I feel fueled Bill's performances of that period: the fact of working with three horns (and of course not just any three, but no less than Miles, Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley) and the added confidence and adrenalin that came from being thoroughly accepted as belonging in such company.
For recorded examples of the third element - being propelled by Philly Joe - you have to look elsewhere, but not very far. The Milestone reissue package called "Peace Piece" and Other Pieces happens to be titled in honor of a most celebrated example of "normal" Evans-a moody, even Debussy-ish solo improvisation. But is is largely devoted to trio sides recorded immediately after Bill had quite amicably departed from Miles's band to permanently become his own leader. Several numbers include the longtime Davis bassist, Paul Chambers, and the drummer throughout is Philly.
The Davis and Evans sessions noted would seem to represent the culmination of Bill's early period. They take the shy and self-deprecating young bebop pianist I had first met and recorded for Riverside in 1956 to a point some two years later where he briefly admitted liking his own work, had contributed very substantially to the new modal music of Miles and Trane, and had gained the praise and respect of major black jazz artists (a rare accomplishment in those years for a fledgling white musician).
The very next phase in his career took him in quite another direction. Not only did he choose to lock himself exclusively into a trio format, but he concentrated heavily on the possibilities opened up by a remarkable young bassist he had hired after a brief amount of on-the-job auditioning.
Scott LaFaro's unique approach to his instrument, plus the always adventurous work of drummer Paul Motian, led to a two-and-a-half-year period in which there was much emphasis on collective improvisation and a constantly growing rapport that, at its most successful, simply reached levels of performance interaction that no other trio has ever equaled. They were often close to their best on what turned out to be their final day's work together. By fortunate coincidence, it was fully taped; the two albums I produced from their matinee and evening sets of June 21, 1961 have been reissued on Milestone as The Village Vanguard Sessions.
The unique achievements of that trio were primarily a matter of the tremendous musical empathy between Evans and LaFaro. So, when Scott was killed in an auto accident ten days later, there could be no direct successor and no valid follow-ups. What had been created were some marvelous moments, and a suggested path (which no one as yet has really retraced and extended), but unfortunately not a tradition. Actually, for quite some time there was room for doubt as to whether Bill Evans as a creative force would entirely survive. He took the loss very hard; for a while he declined to work at all, and then only accepted a couple of briefsolo engagements. In all, it took the better part of a year before he found a bassist he felt he could relate to on a regular basis. That was Chuck Israels, who then remained with the trio from the spring of '62 until replaced by Eddie Gomez a full four years later.
Bill had already begun to get back into the studio: he appears on a mostly big-band Tadd Dameron LP recorded early in the spring, and in April had started on a never-completed solo piano project. The latter was abandoned largely because of a quite uncharacteristic spurt of recording activity that included all the material in this double album. The burst really began when Evans surprised me by announcing that he was ready to record with his new trio; eventually it meant that he was in three different studios on a total of eight separate occasions between April and August 1962, creating four-and-a-half albums* worth of solo, trio, and quintet selections.
I don't know how impressive that sounds to anyone else; to me, who was on hand for all of it, it is still overwhelming. It must be understood that I had for years been frustrated by Bill's overly cautious approach to recording: more than two years had elapsed between his first and second albums (mostly because he felt he didn't have anything new to say!); and although there were four albums by the trio with LaFaro, two of these resulted from that one-day, last-chance taping at the Vanguard. Only rarely had he mixed with other players on the active New York recording scene: in the mid-Fifties he had participated in some memorable experimental George Russell dates, but since then his only important non-trio moments had been on Kind of Blue, on Cannonball's 1958 Riverside debut album, and a duet recording with Jim Hall made for another label in, I believe, 1959. By early June of '62 we had two completed trio albums, only one of which was scheduled for quick release. So it was more than a little startling when Evans - that chronic under-recorder - came to me very shortly thereafter with the idea for the quintet sessions with trumpet and guitar that make up the first two sides here.* But it was a valid concept, and it was the sort of interplay with other major musicians that I had been hoping for. (Yes, the blues called "Interplay," which provided the album with its original title, was named by me.) In addition, it was an unfortunately practical idea. I am revealing nothing new when I note that Bill at this time and for some years before had been burdened with what often is described in public as "personal problems" and in real life as a severe dependency on narcotics.
I do not propose to discuss the physical, emotional, or sociological aspects of junk, or to make moral value judgments. I am specifically recalling some conflicting drives that I know to have been at work then, because I feel some awareness of the facts is helpful in appreciating the music and its setting. Evans, like certain others, was usually able to adjust externally to the problem; and I do not feel that his internal emotional reactions (whatever they might have been) detracted from his music. In other words, he could play. But this dependency uses up a lot of cash; the most feasible way for a musician who had not been working much in the past year to get money was from his record company.
Bill's record company at that time was Riverside; I signed checks at Riverside. It was not easy in those days to be his friend and producer and record company all at the same time. Other jazz labels of that period stockpiled albums quite regularly; I have never liked the idea of recording a man's music with no intention of issuing it until two or three years later-when he might by then have drastically altered his musical concepts. Nevertheless, recording ahead-so that advances could legitimately be paid to Bill-seemed the only way to deal with both the artist's and the company's cash-flow problems in this situation. Rather ironically, it turned out that 1 was to delay the initial release of the second quintet album for not two or three but a full 20 years.
I have no reason to believe these two albums would have been recorded when they were if not for Evans's problem at that time. Actually, knowing his personality and recording attitudes, I'm not at all sure they would ever have been proposed under other circumstances. However, I also consider them to be fascinating and valuable pieces of work: quite different from each other, but both well conceived and well thought-out, and diligently (sometimes brilliantly) executed. Bill made some demands on me that summer; we struck a bargain; and he totally delivered as promised - as he always did.
The first album was quickly assembled: Philly Joe was an obvious choice, and Percy Heath (deeply involved in the Modern Jazz Quartet but still accepting occasional outside record dates) was a strong favorite with both of us. Evans decided that a guitar would give more lightness and flexibility than a second horn; besides, he welcomed a chance to work with Jim Hall.
On trumpet, his first thought had been Art Farmer, who was unavailable; choosing young Freddie Hubbard, then only beginning to attract attention as an Art Blakey sideman, was a bit of a gamble, but it worked out just fine. Bill's repertoire choices were mainly standards from the Thirties, and Freddie was somewhat too young to know them. Instead of presenting a problem, that turned out to be an asset: it was easy enough for him to learn the tunes, and he didn't have any original concepts to unlearn. In most cases here the Evans approach runs against the grain of the usual interpretation of the song. (Lyrics are good clues to how a pop tune is normally treated, but even if you don't happen to know the words, it's soon clear that these versions are not trying to retain the emotions that led to titles like "I'll Never Smile Again" or "You and the Night and the Music") Tempos and spirits are mostly bright. The story of the previously unreleased August sessions is rather more complex. First of all, I wasn't even asked to do this one until after the July ates, making me feel a bit overloaded. Secondly, Bill informed me that he intended to record no less than seven original compositions. My suspicion was that the publisher he was dealing with was willing to give him advances on new tunes only when they were scheduled to be recorded.