Everybody Digs Bill Evans: BILL EVANS Trio
Bill Evans (p) Sam Jones (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
(Lucky to Be Me, Peace Piece and Epilogue are unaccompanied piano solos)
New York; December 15, 1958
Minority (5:20) (Gigi Gryce)
Young and Foolish (5:48) (Harwit –Hague)
Lucky to Be Me (3:35) (Comden, Green – Bernstein)
Night and Day (7:12) (Cole Porter)
Epilogue ( :38) (Bill Evans)
Tenderly (3:29) (Walter Gross)
Peace Piece (6:37) (Bill Evans)
What Is There to Say? (4:49) (Harburg – Duke)
Oleo (4:04) (Sonny Rollins)
Epilogue ( :38) (Bill Evans)
The unusual cover of this album is designed to make completely clear one of the most startling facts about BILL EVANS: that this extraordinarily talented young pianist, although still virtually unknown to the jazz public, is already the object of a truly amazing degree of admiration and respect on the part of some of the most highly regarded of today’s jazz musicians.
The four major artists whose signed praises of Evans are featured on the cover where arbitrarily selected – the full list of Evans fans among his fellow musicians is a much, much longer one. However, these specific enthusiastic opinion should certainly be sufficient to put across the basic point that those who are out there in the forefront of current jazz performance and public acceptance place a very high valuation indeed on the ideas and accomplishments of Bill Evans.
Today’s jazz world is a crowded, highly competitive marketplace in which it is difficult for the listener to avoid utter confusion, and all too easy for important talents to be lost someplace in the shuffle. Fortunately, it is no problem at all to arm Evans against the possibility of such a fate. In our enthusiasm for Bill, we at Riverside are merely part of an army. Not only are there the musicians (just about all who have played with or listened to Bill, including an impressive number of other pianists); there are also the critics:
Evans was chosen “New Star” pianist in the 1958 Down Beat International Jazz Critics Poll. And, taking just a random sample of commentary, you find Nat Hentoff noting his "feeling for and knowledge of his instrument. His technique is clean and clear. He also swings deeply. Evans is not only a pianist who should become a major contributor; he already has arrived as a man to dig now.” You find Dom Cerulli, in Down Beat, describing him as an “increasingly important jazzman,” who displays “the workings of a creative mind.” Metronome’s Jack McKinney writes of his having “absorbed the best” of Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell, and Horace Silver and “welded them with his own personality, creating a style of his own.”
The recipient of all this praise is a bespectacled, blond, extremely reserved and mild-mannered young man, born in Plainfield, New Jersey in August of 1929. He is possibly the only man I can think of whose head would not have been completely turned and swelled by the sort of things jazz insiders have been saying about him of late. Quite the contrary, Evans is an immensely serious and dedicated musician (which does not mean he is stuffy about it – he is saved from that sort of nonsense by a quiet but sharp sense of humor), who has a bad habit of belittling his own work. Bill made a highly-praised debut on Riverside on an album (RLP 12-223) recorded almost exactly 27 months prior to the date of the present LP. During almost all of those 27 months, although he did appear as a sideman on a handful of dates for various labels, Evans resolutely refused to consider himself ready for another effort on his own. In this era of ever-prolific recordings, this alone is enough to mark this man as unique!
A good share of the credit for getting Bill to feel prepared to record undoubtedly must go to the several months period that he spent during 1958 with Miles Davis’ sextet. The challenge and experience of working with that wailing group was most valuable. Prior to that, Evans had played with Tony Scott, with Don Elliot and with Jerry Wald’s band, had been in the Army for three years (1951-54), and had studied extensively (privately as a boy, then at Southeastern Louisiana College, most recently at New York’s Mannes School of Music).
One extremely striking aspect of the Evans approach to the piano is his strong melodic sense. Bill is fundamentally a lyrical pianist, a “pretty” player in the best meaning of that word. This is not only a matter of playing ballads with the proper richness – although it is probably most apparent in the fullness and beauty of the trio ballads (What It There to Say, and particularly sensitive version of Young and Foolish) and in the unaccompanied selections (Lucky to Be Me, the haunting original called Peace Piece, and the brief Epilogue with which Bill chooses to close each side). This strong melodic sense is also very much in evidence on ‘up” numbers like Minority and Oleo, where he never seems in any danger of having speed lead him into hardness or angularity.
Tied in with this is Evans’ use of extremely long melodic lines; in the notes to his precious album, I pointed out that “his choruses are constructed in longer, more sustained units to than is the case with almost any other pianist who comes to mind. Basically, he phrases more like a horn man . . .” And, according to Evans himself, he tended from the start to draw his concepts of both structure and “melodic feeling” less from other pianists than from horn men like Miles and Charlie Parker.
There is also something less easily definable: a feeling of authority in his playing. This seems to be what Cannonball is referring to in his cover quote; among other things, it enables Bill to take such familiar and almost hackneyed material as Tenderly or Night and Day and, wit apparent effortlessness and without any straining for gimmicks, turn it into something that sounds fresh and different and unmistakeably his own. This aura of command, of authoritativeness, is something that can be sensed in the work of the superior artist in any field – and thus it seems very much to the point that it is one of the qualities possessed by Bill Evans.
Evans assured himself of most skillful and sympathetic accompaniment by selecting two unrelated musicians named Jones, both quite familiar to Riverside listeners. SAM JONES, has provided a sturdy bass for groups led by Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley; PHILLY JOE JONES, rated high on any list of today7s drummers, has worked with Evans in the Miles Davis Sextet.
Evans’ previous Riverside album is –
BILL EVANS: New Jazz Conceptions (RLP 12-223)
He can also be heard on –
Portrait of Cannonball: JULIAN ADDERLEY Quintet (RLP 12-269)
Philly Joe is featured on the unusual LP –
Blues for Dracula: PHILLY JOE JONES Sextet (RLP 12-282)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover produced and designed by PAUL BACON – KEN BRARE – HARRIS LEWINE
Back-liner photos by LAWRENCE SHUSTAK
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.