I avoided this recording because of all that's been written about the session being a failure, a misfire and miscalculation, an assembly of musicians who simply never could get it together. Au contraire! What I'm hearing is engaging music, inspired playing on all hands, a fascinating conversation among marvelous musicians who haven't spoken the same dialect long enough for it to become predictable, patterned, bland.
The session reminds me a bit of the Coltrane-Ellington recording, an iconic meeting on which Duke, for reasons known only to himself, barely offers a chord or two during Elvin Jones' playing. As a pianist, I can testify to the mutual unease and "feeling out" that accompanies the beginning of every job with a strange, new drummer. Bill seems to know that with Elvin on hand, this is not to be a "business-as-usual" Bill Evans' session, and to his credit he locates his place within the rhythmic universe of Elvin. (Another factor is Richard Davis, a gifted player but less secure and reassuring as a "walker" than Ron Carter, with whom he shares duties.)
This is an extroverted, "physical" session, and Getz is relishing every moment. Listen to "My Heart Stood Still" (master take). He's a giddy kid, pulling off wildly exhuberant melodic intervals and phrasings I've never heard from him before (let alone any other tenor player), playing with freeness, joy and abandon. Now listen to what occurs when it's Bill's turn. He lets the bass walk companionless, leaving us to wonder if he's ever going to show up or is about to pull an Ellington and disappear.
Instead, whether to avoid the bait he's been given by Getz or to avoid the same bait that Getz bit on, Bill comes in reluctantly and gradually, employing the minimalism and playfulness of a John Lewis while deliberately moving the music in the opposite direction of Elvin, Getz and company. In effect, what began as an adventure out of the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers' playbook ends up on a more pedestrian but no less productive path. Without using his left hand during his solo, Bill steers the music toward the polyphonic, genteel world of the Modern Jazz Quartet!
I'd say there's plenty of potent chemistry in evidence on this rare session, which is a refreshing change from Bill's usual trios of this period.