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New Jazz Conceptions: BILL EVANS

RLP-117 118 A
RLP-201R front.jpg
New Jazz Conceptions: BILL EVANS
RLP-117 118 A.jpg
RLP-117 118 B.jpg

Bill Evans (p) Teddy Kotick (b) Paul Motian (drs) (Side 1, #3, and Side 2, #2 and 4 are y unaccompanied piano)

New York; September 18 & 27, 1956


1. I Love You (3:52) (Cole Porter)

2. Five (4:01) (Bill Evans)

3. I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good (1:36) (Webster – Ellington)

4. Conception (4:43) (George Shearing)

5. Easy Living (3:49) (Robin – Rainger)

6. Displacement (2:33) (Bill Evans)


1. Speak Low (5:06) (Nash – Weill)

2. Waltz for Debby (1:16) (Bill Evans)

3. Our Delight (4:42) (Tadd Dameron)

4. My Romance (1:54) (Hart – Rodgers)

5. No Cover, No Minimum (7:30) (Bill Evans)


   Followers of the current course of jazz hardly need be told that a substantial number of album these days are being devoted to the work of new talents. On the whole (although there are cases where young musicians seem to have been pushed into the spotlight a bit too soon), most of these debuts seem legitimate signs of a highly productive jazz period, not just an artificial flurry built up by over-eager record companies. However, this emphasis on presenting newcomers does have its drawbacks: for one thing, it seems almost standard form to claim that every one of them is blazing a new trail; and, rather paradoxically, it is also customary to suggest that the performer be judged with special leniency - less on the basis of what he has to offer right now than on what he's likely to produce at some slightly later date.

   But BILL EVANS, the somewhat shy and studious looking young pianist being introduced here, does not stand in need of any such straining or near-apologizing on our part. While we happen to feel that Evans is surely destined to be a jazz artist of steadily growing stature, there is no point in referring to him here primarily as showing "promise." He can safely be judge on his merits as of right now. For this first LP offers ample specific evidence that Bill has truly original considerable degree of maturity, in terms both of technique and of the quality of his jazz ideas.

   More than a few musicians already are part of an intense Evans rooting section - and perhaps the most impressive aspect of this is that the list is by no means limited to men whose jazz approach is precisely the same as Bill's. He was first brought to Riverside's attention by Mundell Lowe, who insisted that this was someone special. Don Elliott and Vinnie Burke, who have known Bill since his 'teens, are among other is Tony Scott, in whose Quartet Evans has been working since the late Spring of '56.

   The most strikingly new element in Evans's piano style lies in his use of extremely long melodic lines; his choruses are constructed in longer, more sustained units than is the case with almost any other pianist who comes to mind. Basically, he phrases more like a horn man than a pianist. This, in a jazz era in which so many other instruments (notably the piano's rhythm-section mates: bass, drums, guitar) have been freed from what were once their 'normal' limitations, seems a logical and intriguing avenue of development. For Evans, this is apparently an inevitable path; he notes that he always tended to look to horn players for "melodic feeling, and also for a feeling for structure," paying particular attention to Charlie Parker and to Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Stan Getz.

   Bill has been involved with music for just about all his life. He was born in August, 1929, in Plainfield, New Jersey; there were no professionals in his family, but there was an appreciation of music that led to early piano lessons for Bill (he also studied violin and flute, and still works at the latter). His very first job came in his early 'teens, when he filled in with a young local group whose piano player had come down with the measles! At about 16, he and an older brother (who has also become a jazz pianist, and teaches music as well) had their own band - Don Elliott played with them at times. Then there was the usual series of local dances-and-weddings jobs that threw him in wit pros from whom he absorbed basic jazz chord patterns. Private study continued during this period. Later, while earning a degree at Southeastern Louisiana College, he met Mundell Lowe in nearby New Orleans. Summer jobs with Lowe and bassist Red Mitchell introduced him into the jazz scene; in the Summer of 1950 he went with the Herbie Fields band for six months, before beginning a three-year Army hitch. Out of service in January, 1954, he spent some time at home, then joined Jerry Wald. He left that band in May, 1955, to study in New York (at the Mannes School of Music) for about a year before plunging fully into the jazz-for-a-living world with Tony Scott.

   In addition to the preciously-noted horn players, Evans points to Nat Cole as an early influence, then to Bud Powell (whom he recalls first being aware of on the mid-'40s Dexter Gordon sides), then the Lee Konitz-Lennie Tristano school ("for structure and design"), and more recently Horace Silver. But although he feels he can find something of value in almost everyone he hears, Evans happens to have some very strong and well-taken points to make on the whole subject of "influences." Too many young musicians, he feels, merely try to find the man they want to follow, and then proceed to try to be exactly like him - not just musically, but even by seeking to "live the same life." But, not having really developed as themselves, such men are apt to be severely handicapped: having little or no "musical vocabulary for expressing their own personality," they are forced to rely on "some one else vocabulary," making them much more likely to become imitators then creators. "I don't mean to seem to be lecturing on this subject," Bill notes. "It's a problem I'm certainly still wrestling with to an extent. But I happen to feel very strongly about this matter of being equipped, musically, to speak for yourself."

   This album should make it clear that Bill Evans has his own, distinctive voice. It took some time for us to convince him that he was ready to record (which is decidedly the reverse of the usual situation). Then he picked two skilled, sympathetic collaborators - Teddy Kotick has played with Parker, Getz, George Wallington and many others; Paul Motian, whose work has drawn highly favorable comment from Max Roach, has been with Evans in the Jerry Wald band and in the current Tony Scott group - and embarked on the varied program heard here. Included are imaginative variations on standards like Speak Low and I Love You; some intriguing originals; sensitive ballad treatments of Easy Living and of three brief, unaccompanied numbers; and the particularly challenging transfer into trio form of two early-bop band standards - Our Delight and Conception. Not an easy set of takes; but, I think you'll agree, highly and non-routinely rewarding.

   Riverside’s “Contemporary Series” of HIGH FIDELITY 12-inch LPs covers a wide range of notable modern jazz performances, including:

THELONIOUS MONK plays Duke Ellington; with Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Clarke (RLP12-201)

The Unique THELONIOUS MONK; with Oscar Pettiford, Art Blakey (RLp12-209)

New Music of ALC WILDER; composed for MUNDELL LOWE and his orchestra (RLp12-219)

MUNDELL LOWE Quartet; with Dick Hyman, Trigger Alpert, Ed Shaughnessy (RLP12-204)

Guitar Moods by MUNDELL LOWE (RLP12-208)

BOB CVORWIN Quartet featuring the trumpet of DON ELLIOTT (RLP12-220)

Counterpoint for Six Valves: DON ELLIOTT and RUSTY DEDRICK play Dick Hyman arrangements (RLP12-218)

KENNY DREW Trio; with Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLp12-224)

Get Happy with the RANDY WESTON Trio (RLP12-203)

RANDY WESTON Trio, plus Cecil Payne (RLP12-214)

Jazz by Gee! –MATTHEW GEE All-Stars, with Frank Foster, Kenny Dorham (RLP12-221)

Presenting ERNIE HENRY; sensational new alto sax star, with Kenny Dorham, Kenny Drew (RLP12-222)


A High Fidelity Recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).

Produced by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer

Notes by Orrin Keepnews

Cover designed by Fran Scott; photograph by Hank Parker; typographic design: Paul Bacon.

Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios)


418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.

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