Everybody Digs Bill Evans (Again!) Page 2

Another Time is one of those recordings in which the entire group is on the same musical and philosophical path from the opening number, an up-tempo run-through of André and Dory Previn's "You're Gonna Hear from Me." Evans's playing is looser and more fluid than it had been two days before, in the Black Forest. A number of tracks here are absolute standouts, and easily among the best live recordings Evans ever made.

Throughout his career, Evans had a penchant for pushing and pulling well-known pop tunes into a very personal statements. His version of Johnny Mandel's "Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)," for example, is a late-career highlight. Here, in Burt Bacharach and Hal David's theme song for Alfie, Evans at first brings a sunny disposition and a sprightly tempo expertly abetted by DeJohnette, who uses brushes in ways that, as in his work on Some Other Time, aren't particularly well-known aspects of his playing. This is Evans at his most joyous and most optimistic—always a pleasure to hear, given his taste for the dark side. He ends the tune on slow, bittersweet, impeccably spaced chords.

"Alfie" is followed by one of Eddie Gomez's most incredible recorded performances. He takes off on the melody of the Gershwins' eternal "Embraceable You," leaving Evans to comp along and DeJohnette to again get busy with the brushes. Gomez continues as the lead voice throughout the take, in one of the more amazing double-bass performances I've ever heard—entirely bravura all the way!


Besides the wonderfully unified music-making on Another Time, the sound quality is good, not great for a 49-year-old tape. Which is where things get sticky. The/ same music that makes up Another Time is also present on the Bill Evans Trio's Live at Hilversum: 1968 (180gm LP, $99). It's part of The Lost Recordings series issued by Devialet, the French manufacturer of high-end amplifiers and loudspeakers, in collaboration with the French record label Fondamenta, who say they've subjected it to Phoenix, a sound-restoration process they've developed. While the track sequences of the two releases differ, the performances are the same. In general, Live at Hilversum does sound better than Another Time, though this was somewhat offset by my review copy, possibly a store demo, which had numerous scuffs that made for a noisy listening experience.

Zev Feldman of Resonance Records told me that Another Time comes from a 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC file, and that Resonance cleared the source material with all the parties involved, while Devialet did not. If true, this would make the Devialet-Fondamenta version a bootleg. I asked both sides for their stories.

"I flew to Holland to get the recording, tracked it down, and made a deal for it," Feldman told me in a recent interview. "Recording in hand, I then made exclusive deals with everyone who owned rights to the performances: the Estate of Bill Evans, other musicians, and Bill Evans's 1968 label. It was only after we already had deals in place that we learned that the custodian of the tape had made another deal for the tape with a French company, which intended to release the same material. It should be noted that we're the only ones who have the necessary rights to put the recording out."

As for Live at Hilversum: 1968, a spokesperson for Devialet said in a recent interview that the source was the original analog tape, and that "Devialet and Fondamenta obtained access to the Bill Evans material through proper channels with the support of the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision as well as NTR [Dutch Public Broadcasting]."


While not the sonic equivalent of the Resonance sets discussed here, the Bill Evans Trio's On a Monday Evening, from Concord Records (180gm LP, $23.99), is still a valuable addition to the ever-increasing canon of Evans concert recordings. Taped at the Wisconsin Union Theater, in Madison, on November 15, 1976, with Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund, this recording, according to Concord, has never been bootlegged. Best of all, it was recorded by a pair of college deejays, Larry Goldberg and James Farber. Farber went on to become a noted audio engineer.

As Paul Motian says in Time Remembered (I paraphrase), "If you didn't see Bill and the trio live, well then . . ." In other words, the live experience was very different from listening to the trio's studio recordings, which, while filled with wonderful, beautiful, exquisitely sad moments, can be a bit dry and academic in spots.

Evans's live records, best exemplified by Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961), are almost a separate subcategory in his canon. Inspired by the approval and the watchfulness of an audience, Evans showed a more pronounced sense of rhythm and a heightened clarity of musical vision when a roomful of eyes and ears was visibly present.


Having a live audience became a recurring theme and needed stimulant in his recording catalog, as his personal demons exacted an increasing toll over the years. While the catalog of more than 50 albums Evans made between 1956 and 1980 contains not a single "bad" recording—and his final studio albums, We Will Meet Again (1979) and You Must Believe in Spring (1981), have incredible poignancy—the live sets taped in Paris (twice), Tokyo, and Montreux have an intensity that is audible.

As author Ashley Kahn writes in the liner notes for On a Monday Evening, by 1976 Evans was aware that jazz, the music he'd been playing, mostly in trio form, since the mid-1950s, had changed, while his own methods had largely remained the same. "I just require for my own pleasure that music somehow touch me somewhere along the line and use the musical language in a way that speaks to me in some really human terms," he told Farber and Goldberg in a radio interview done before the show. "Maybe I'm just an old moldy fig now. It really can happen you know. You were born in a certain time and there's nothing you can do about it."

There's nothing even slightly moldy about his performance in Madison. After a sprightly "Sugar Plum," Evans and Gomez—who by then had been a mainstay in Evans's trio for a decade—combine talents in a masterful take of Jerome Kern's "Up with the Lark." On the Evans original "Time Remembered," Gomez's expert bowing on double bass is a highlight of the album. Side 2 features winning renditions of "Someday My Prince Will Come," from Disney's Snow White and made famous by Miles Davis, and a version of Cole Porter's "All of Me" so revved-up it's virtually unrecognizable, and featuring more of Gomez's flavorful bowing.

As for the sound, everything is very closely miked—there's no room ambience to speak of. There's a slightly closed-in, limited feel, the sound is clear and dry, and the resonances of Evans's piano aren't as rich and warm as one might hope for.


Happily, there are no legal or sonic problems with Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's second One-Step Process release: the one Bill Evans album that can take its place alongside such landmarks as Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, John Coltrane's Giant Steps or Blue Train, Mile Davis's Kind of Blue (on which Evans plays) or Bitches Brew, Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, and all the other must-have recordings in the history of jazz.

The sound of MoFi's two One-Step releases so far—Santana's Abraxas and Evans's Sunday at the Village Vanguard—are beyond words. These 45rpm vinyl reissues reveal new levels of detail and presence in analog reproduction. The snap of the bass strings, the scrape of every bristle of brushes on the snare, the precise touch of Evans's fingers on the keys, the sound of the room—none of it has ever been this clear or immediate, or made anywhere near as much emotional impact. I have US LP pressings of Sunday at the Village Vanguard from 1961 and 1984, and CD reissues from 1987, 1997, 2001, and 2008. After a long afternoon of comparative listening, they all paled in comparison to a test pressing of MoFi's new One-Step (two 180 gm, 45rpm LPs, $99.99).

Every time I listened to the One-Step Sunday at the Village Vanguard, after each side I was left shaking my head at the multidimensional sound coming out of my speakers. Motian's cymbals were in front of me. The genius of Scott LaFaro's playing was never more apparent. And Evans's impeccably chosen chords had a rhythmic energy and exactly-right logic—the architecture of his playing blossomed out into the room around me. The One-Step 45s aren't so much physical playback media as invitations to an all-encompassing experience. I dragged in several audiophile friends to test my enthusiasm against their ears. They, too, were left open-mouthed—before running to websites to search out copies for themselves. To listen once to this One-Step is not merely to dig Bill Evans—it's to love him at first listen.


Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing -RB.

I am a Bill Evans connoisseur to be sure. After his brilliant work on Kind of Blue, he blazed his own trail (and fortune) perfecting the piano trio. It is worth noting his departure from NJ to the deep South, Hammond LA. I would like to read more about that particular decision.