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Essential Standards: Bill Evans

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This fine compilation of standards focuses on the late pianist Bill Evans’ early years, from his debut recording, 1956’s New Jazz Conceptions, to 1963. In a way, the album’s core consists of four tracks he laid down with an extraordinary trio that included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. The threesome appears on “Autumn Leaves,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “My Foolish Heart,” and “All of You.” (The latter two cuts, along with “Isn’t It Romantic” were recorded live.) The exquisite “My Foolish Heart” features, among other things, Motian’s absolutely masterful brush work, and Cole Porter’s “All of You” is taken to new places over the course of eight minutes. Listening to Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low,” a track from Evans’s first album, it’s clear that the pianist had his own intriguing ideas about harmony from the get-go. The closer, which finds Sam Jones on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums, is a wonderfully slow version of “Young and Foolish.”


Born: August 16, 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, lyrical,...
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