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The Definitive Bill Evans On Riverside and Fantasy

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Album Review

Bill Evans cut a slew records for Riverside and Fantasy. His earliest sides were for Riverside between 1956 and 1973 before leaving first for Blue Note, then for a lengthy stay at Verve, and another at Warner. He signed to Fantasy in 1973, which at that time, owned the Prestige, Milestone, and Riverside catalogs; he remained there until 1977. This 25-track, double-disc set is culled from both periods. Disc one contains cuts from his earliest trio dates, with drummer Paul Motian and Teddy Kotick or the amazing Scott LaFaro on bass from the albums New Jazz Conceptions, Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, and the live Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Interspersed is the solo "Peace Piece" from Everybody Digs Bill Evans, and a 1959 trio version of "Woody 'N' You" by Evans with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, which wasn't released until the mid-'70s. There's also the killer version of "Know What I Mean" for a 1961 Cannonball Adderley-led date for the album of the same title. The first disc wraps up with cuts from his third trio with Motian and bassist Chuck Israels, from the albums Moon Beams and How My Heart Sings, as well as one from the famed Interplay set with Freddie Hubbard, Jim Hall, Jones, and Percy Heath. So far, so good; these selections are ones Evans' fans will be familiar with and provide a fine introduction, though aficionados might argue track choices. Disc two is where it gets dicey. Though it opens with three more cuts from the early '60s, there is a ten-year break between the trio dates from 1963-1973. Evans' way of considering the possibilities of the piano trio had changed considerably by the latter period, and his harmonic focus had been deeply influenced by modern classical music, even when playing standards. The remaining tracks jump all over the place and don't provide a sense of continuity in his playing or composing. Arguably, the most satisfying things from the '70s here are his composition "Re: Person I Knew" and Steve Swallow's "Eiderdown," with saxophonists Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. The programming by producer Nick Phillips feels schizophrenic and scattered, though it didn't come across that way album to album. This isn't to say what's on disc two isn't representative, but whether it's "definitive" is another matter.

Biography

Born: 16 August 1929 in Plainfield, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

With the passage of time, Bill Evans has become an entire school unto himself for pianists and a singular mood unto himself for listeners. There is no more influential jazz-oriented pianist — only McCoy Tyner exerts nearly as much pull among younger players and journeymen — and Evans has left his mark on such noted players as Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau. Borrowing heavily from the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, Evans brought a new, introverted, relaxed,...
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