As a seventeen year old, I remember being introduced to Bill Evans by a friend who knew that I was interesting in learning to play jazz piano. Although the recordings in question were of a slightly later vintage that this CD, his playing was an epithany for me and opened my ears to more modern players such as Chick Corea, John Taylor, Richie Beirach and Keith Jarrett, all of whom must have owed a depth of gratitude to Evans.
"Portrait in Jazz" became a "must have" CD for me as one of my music books had a transcription on "Peri's Scope" - the most zestful of all the tracks on the disc. Elsewhere, it is the interpretations of standards such as the definative "Autumn Leaves", "Come rain or shine" and "What is this thing called love" that dominate. There is no more emotional performance on this record than "Spring is here."
Featuring his best-ever line up of Scott LaFaro on bass (who died shortly afterwards in a car crash) and the excellent drums of Paul Motian, still a vibrant player on today's scene, this is one of Bill Evan's finest performances. Recorded in the last few days of 1959, Evan's style represents a culmination in the development of jazz piano in that decade where the bass and drums were equal partners to the principle instrument. Forty-five years later the music remains as relevant as ever.
An essential purchase for fans of jazz piano and hopefully, as in my case, a portal through which to investigate the rich legacy he passed on.