Consecration: The Final Recordings, Part 2, Live at Keystone Korner, September 1980

COMPOSERS: Bill Evans Trio
LABELS: Milestone
PERFORMER: Bill Evans (p), Marc Johnson (b), Joe LaBarbera (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 8MCD-4436-2

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From his emergence in Miles Davis’s group in the late Fifties to his untimely death in 1980 and beyond, Bill Evans influenced countless jazz pianists through his lyric introspection, pellucid tone, unusually mobile rhythmic sense and exquisite harmonic craftsmanship.

Moreover, the highly refined three-way interplay between himself and his sidemen liberated the bass and drums from merely keeping time. Milestone’s second eight-CD collection recorded at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner during Evans’s penultimate nightclub engagement contains some of his most creatively unfettered and impassioned playing on disc.

Galvanised by the centred, buoyant support of bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera, one readily hears the extent to which Evans’s artistry had grown more extroverted and daring in his last years. Even the pianist’s signature ballads such as ‘My Foolish Heart’, ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams’, and prismatic originals like ‘Re: Person I Knew’, ‘Knit for Mary F’ and ‘Your Story’, quake with nervous energy.

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His extended piano introductions and codas, once delicate and chamber-like, emerge in bold, orchestral sheets of sound. Though less well recorded and varied in programme than the pianist’s June 1980 Village Vanguard recordings, Consecration still remains essential listening for ardent Bill Evans fans. Jed Distler