BILL EVANS QUINTET: INTERPLAY
Freddie Hubbard (tp) Jim Hall (g) Bill Evans (p) Percy Heath (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
Recorded New York City; July 16 & 17, 1962
You and the Night and the Music (7:03) (Dietz-Schwartz)
When You Wish Upon a Star (5:42) (Washington-Harline)
I’ll Never Smile Again (6:30) (Ruth Lowe)
Interplay (8:11) (Bill Evans)
You Go to My Head (5:02) (Gillespie-Coots)
Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (6:42) (Moll-Koehler-Barris)
Aside from offering some expert and delightful music, this album exemplifies so many things that are currently happening in jazz, and offers such a handy point of departure for some of the favorite critical games of the day, that it is quite likely to become the recorded equivalent of the novel discussed at every cocktail party.
First, and most obviously, there is there is the personnel. Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Jim Hall, Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones – it surely took admirable restraint for Riverside to keep the word “All-Stars” off the cover. But more of that later. Primarily, this is a Bill Evans album, and is tailor-made for those who have been using the pianist’s work as a critical football. To recapitulate briefly: Evans first came to attention on the many “experimental” albums being produced in New York in the later 1950s (generally, in the company of such players as Art Farmer and Hank McKusick), and no matter how difficult or arid the material might be, Evans was generally able to find a brilliant, rhythmically powerful solo in it. Then, he joined Miles Davis, and it is quite possible that the pianist’s scalar approach gave Davis added impetus to create the music on “Kind of Blue,” surely one of the most influential jazz LPs since the death of Charlie Parker. Since the time Evans first formed his own trio, with the late bassist Scott La Faro, some – though by no means all – commentators have come to find his work increasingly introspective, even closeted, and miss the driving authority of Evans the sideman.
This new album may inspire fresh variations on this critical game of “shoot the piano player,” for here we have Evans, after having been a sideman on many albums with the same general format as this one, appearing for the first time leader of a quintet which includes a horn player. And it is of more than passing interest that only one horn player included; the substitution of guitar for the traditional saxophone is, in many ways, the key to the entire set. The volume is automatically lowered, and Evans’ playing is lyricism; and guitarist Jim Hall is one of the most lyrical players in jazz. (This fact has always been recognized by the saxophonist Paul Desmond, who uses Hall, when he can, on those records he makes without Dave Brubeck. Most of the jazz audience, however, thought of Hall strictly in terms of “West Coast” until he became a member of the quartered Sonny Rollins formed in 1961.) And one of the most lyrical of all jazz recordings is a duet album made by Hall and Bill Evans.
Lyricism, I think, is also the most identifiable characteristic of the brilliant young trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, although the situations in which he works do not always make it easy to display that quality. His position in the Jazz Messengers and as a member of the unofficial post-Davis-Blakey-Silver new mainstream may account for the otherwise surprising fact that he was largely unfamiliar with the standards (mostly tunes written in the late 1930s) Evans had chosen for the date.
For over ten years, Percy Heath has been the bassist with the Modern Jazz Quartet, another group concerned with lyricism, and one which probably holds the record for ability to swing at low volume. I do not think it coincidental that he was on the first record Desmond made with Jim Hall.
And finally, the drummer, Philly Joe Jones, perhaps the foremost jazz virtuoso on his instrument. Often criticized for playing too loud, he has, in recent years, shown himself, on the countless pick-up record dates he has propelled, to be brilliantly adaptable to any context. When Miles Davis was constantly being advised to replace him, the trumpeter made a definitive remark to Nat Hentoff which also admirably explains his function on the present record: “Look,” Davis said, “I wouldn’t care if he came up on the bandstand in his B.V.D.’s and with one arm, just so long as he was there. He’s got the fire I want. There’s nothing more terrible than playing with a dull rhythm section. Jazz has got to have that thing. You have to be born with it. You can’t even buy it. If you could buy it, they’d have it at the next Newport Festival.”
Those who thought Davis introspective and hesitant, and wondered why he had such players as Jones and John Coltrane in his group, might also miss another point. Two elements hold this session together, make it much more than a random collection of big names assembled to play mutually exclusive ideas in a recording studio. One is the quiet lyricism that exists today partially as a reaction to the more violent proponents of “the new thing.” The other is the influence of Davis himself. Evans and Jones, of course, earned their first great reputations playing with him; Hubbard has been influenced by him, an influence which reveals itself more on this material than in his work with the Messengers; Heath was bassist on some of the classic Davis records of the early 1950s. But more than that, I think that Davis, because of his own lyrical bent, evolved in the ‘50s a way to play the popular song that has passed into the common language of jazz, and that finds rich expression throughout this LP.
There is no need to discuss each track here, or the soloing. The men and the tunes are too familiar. I should only like to remark on the various ingenious ways Evans has found to combine the sounds of trumpet, guitar and piano in the melody choruses – ways which avoid monotony and exploit the potential of the instruments. I must, however, mention one track, my favorite on the set. It is Evans’ original blues, Interplay, one of the few blues he has written. In mood, it is slightly reminiscent of John Lewis’ Two Degrees East – Three Degrees West (the first recording of which featured Hall and Heath). It is timeless and lasting music, owing nothing to any style except a general leaning toward Evans’ scalar approach. It is also a lovely justification of its own and the album’s title. On this and every track, there is wonderful evidence of what can happen when excellent musicians, instead of playing a style, play music.
BILL EVANS can be heard on several varied trio recordings, including –
Moonbeams (428, Stereo 9428)
Waltz for Debby (399, Stereo 9399)
Sunday at The Village Vanguard (376, Stereo 9376)
Explorations (351, Stereo 9351)
Portrait in Jazz (315, Stereo 9315)
Everybody digs Bill Evans (291, Stereo 9291)
New Jazz Conceptions (223)
He is also featured on –
Know What I Mean? : Cannonball Adderley, with Bill Evans (433, Stereo 9433)
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RS 9445) and Monaural (RM 445) form.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: TOM NOLA (Nola penthouse studio; New York City)
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCITONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York