LABELS: Elektra Musician
ALBUM TITLE: Bill Evans
PERFORMER: Bill Evans (p), Marc Johnson (b), Joe LaBarbera (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-60164-2, 7559-60311-2
When Bill Evans recorded two live albums at New York’s Village Vanguard in June 1961, he redefined the contemporary jazz piano. Yet as pianist, educator and Bill Evans expert Jack Reilly has pointed out, Evans was an accomplished classical pianist as familiar with the European tradition as he was with jazz.
Reilly has noted that not since Art Tatum had a pianist arrived in jazz with such formidable technical and theoretical accomplishments. Never using his technique as an end itself, but deploying it to purely creative ends, an Evans performance was not simply a matter of the elegance and internal logic of his improvised lines, it was also about the chord voicings he created to support his improvisations.
But if the 1961 Vanguard sessions define Evans in a moment in time, they also typecast him in the role of pensive introvert. The Paris concert, recorded less than a year before his death in 1980 at the age of 51, reveals a more expansive, optimistic vision that characterised his playing in the final years of his life.
They are as important as his earlier recordings because, quite simply, they too suggest Evans was quite probably a genius. Stuart Nicholson