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23
4.7 out of 5 stars
Undercurrent
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80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2003
The partnership of Evans and Hall as an unaccompanied duo was an inspired one which produced two albums - this first one and the follow-up, Intermodulation. The two artists had much in common. For example, both were concerned to produce music which had beauty, and even refinement, of sound with no lack of musical substance. Both liked to play quietly, with an emphasis on subtlety and understatement, although they could also 'swing' infectiously at almost any tempo. Both also had years of experience as sidemen or accompanists in other people's groups and this made them particularly sensitive listeners, able to respond to and interact creatively with other soloists.

You can hear that kind of sensitivity and subtle interplay throughout this album, most obviously on the slower pieces but also on the fastest track, the original take of 'My Funny Valentine'. Listen especially to the way in which Hall's guitar fills in behind Evans's statement of the theme and then provides a driving rhythm under the pianist's improvisation.

My favourite track is Hall's 'Romain', a moody, rather sombre theme which inspires the most intense and emotive playing on the album. It has some particularly haunting interplay between the players and displays the 'singing' qualities they could draw out of their instruments, especially at the magical point where Hall's solo leads into Evans's. It's good to have the bonus of an alternate take of this number on the CD edition.

Undercurrent was always a rather special album; but it is superior as a CD, first because of its enhanced sound quality and the quiet background which this intimate, concentrated music needs, secondly because the bonus tracks on the CD provide the 'added value' of quality as well as quantity. The programme originally consisted, rather oddly, of five slow tempo tracks with one fast one. The addition of the mid-tempo swinger, 'Getting Sentimental Over You' and an alternate take of 'My Funny Valentine' creates a better balanced album, although an extra slow ballad from the session, 'Stairway to the Stars', is well worth having too.

It's an album which you can play, if you like, as a piece of chilled out background music which won't disturb the cat; but there's a lot going on under its polished surface to make it music to listen to, and to return to again and again.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2005
This is the first of two superb albums recorded by legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans, and one of my favorite jazz guitarists Jim Hall, and it was recorded over two sessions in April and May 1962. Arrangements simply for piano and guitar are rare in Jazz, and it is even more seldom that the results are truly inspiring and as musically worthwhile as in this case. It is usual for intuitive musical relationships to develop over a number of years, but here we find two musicians who clearly shared an immediate understanding.
Both men are on absolute top form here - Bill Evans was on fire throughout the early and mid sixties, and after the tragic death of his previous musical partner, virtuoso bass player Scott Le Faro (at the age of 23), he was searching for new directions. Jim Hall is a guitarist of tremendous skill and powerful technique, with a highly developed rhythmic and harmonic sense that shines through on this album. What is so special about the performances here is an almost telepathic anticipation of where the music is heading - both musicians
contribute equally, and there is a constant exchange of ideas, each reacting to the other with apparent ease, whatever the mood.
This is a brilliant jazz album, of great depth and tremendous atmosphere, and both players express some exceptional ideas. Highly recommended, and if this is your first experience of either of these incredible musicians, be warned! - It won't be your last. Do yourself a big favour and buy it today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2007
This is the first of two superb albums recorded by legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans, and one of my favorite jazz guitarists Jim Hall, and it was recorded over two sessions in April and May 1962. Arrangements simply for piano and guitar are rare in Jazz, and it is even more seldom that the results are truly inspiring and as musically worthwhile as in this case. It is usual for intuitive musical relationships to develop over a number of years, but here we find two musicians who clearly shared an immediate understanding.

Both men are on absolute top form here - Bill Evans was on fire throughout the early and mid sixties, and after the tragic death of his previous musical partner, virtuoso bass player Scott Le Faro (at the age of 23), he was searching for new directions. Jim Hall is a guitarist of tremendous skill and powerful technique, with a highly developed rhythmic and harmonic sense that shines through on this album. What is so special about the performances here is an almost telepathic anticipation of where the music is heading - both musicians contribute equally, and there is a constant exchange of ideas, each reacting to the other with apparent ease, whatever the mood.

This is a brilliant jazz album, of great depth and tremendous atmosphere, and both players express some exceptional ideas. Highly recommended, and if this is your first experience of either of these incredible musicians, be warned! - It won't be your last. Do yourself a big favour and buy it today.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2002
I bought this record 41 years ago, at Oliver's Record Store, Ashington, Northumberland. I was 16 and I'd gone for a Presley, which wasn't in stock, so as I liked the Undercurrent cover and as my paper-round money was buring a hole in my pocket, this became the first jazz I ever bought. And, sentiment aside, hundreds of jazz records/CDs later, putting on Evans/Hall's version of 'Funny Valentine'still gives just about the best lift, music-wise, a soul could wish for. It's not at all romantic, but a breathless, hammered chase between the piano and the guitar and believe me you'll have this imprinted on your mind as the definitive version, above all others, after a couple of plays.
The other tracks are melodic, dreamy, late night smooch stuff - and none the worse for that ... but valentine's the adrenaline kick and the one you'll return to.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
At the time of writing, my knowledge of jazz is sporadic at best. I am slowly building up my jazz collection, which includes classics from Coltrane, Miles Davis, Mingus, Adderley and others. I think I can safely say, though, that UNDERCURRENT is the current "hot ticket" out of all my jazz discs.

The execution of these tunes couldn't be more minimal - just Evans' piano and Hall's guitar vibing off each other. The results could not be more perfect. Hall picks away effortlessly at his strings, making the guitar murmur softly one moment then chug away rhythmically the next. Evans' piano is lyrical and sublime - I've never heard such charismatic ivory tickling! I was chilling to this disc the other day, nodding my head to this oh-so-natural music and wishing I had half of Evans' talent.

My favourite pieces at the moment are Evans' own composition "Romain", which is an extraordinarily melancholy piece of NY bedsit music. I also love "Skating In Central Park" which sways along with gently caressed piano chords and a delightfully subdued guitar lead. This album never misses a beat though, to be honest. Even though it only features two instruments for the whole duration, it never ever becomes one-dimensional or repetetive. There's always a surprise round the corner!

This music is perfect to unwind to after a tough day. It is perfect to have on in the kitchen while cookin' up a feast. It is perfect to listen to in the company of a loved one. It is perfect to foot-tap to while supping on glass of scotch.

Did I mention that it's perfect?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2015
Always been a fan of both Evans and Hall since the '60s. To hear them together here is just pure delight. They complement each so brilliantly that you don't miss a rhythm section. Listening to take 2 of Valentine each takes his turn to provide the bass line ....Evans' underlying playing is complete mastery and when he takes the lead Hall somehow makes the guitar sound like a bass and drums! How did he do that? As a bassist and guitarist I'm just mesmerised by the sound he achieves.
I simply can't stop playing this disc and have made a copy for the car and also put it on my iPad, sitting, walking or driving I'm thrilled by it and always hear something new. For me it's up there with the Hall, Baker, Desmond recordings, my all time favourite before Undercurrent.
Evans is long gone and Hall much more recently but thankfully they made this iconic recording and wrapped it in a timeless vacuum that transcends all those years since its brilliant creation.
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on 21 February 2015
What a delicious thing of beauty Undercurrent is. The understanding and empathy these two masters have for each other is laid bare on this recording. Neither musician is trying to dominate the conversation but just attempting to enhance each others playing in a quiet sensitive way. A good template for any successful partnership. I keep returning to it time and time again.
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It gets all the stars because is is a great modern jazz album performed as only the late, lamented Mr Evans could arrange and do. If you love jazz, you need this easy -to-listen-to, let's relax with a drink and have some ear candy. Jim Hall, by the way, is worth buying the album for even if Evans didn't play!
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on 7 April 2014
A totally brilliant album. Sublime playing and musicality. I don't really know what to add, except to say, if you like jazz, and don't have this album, then buy it! Buy it! A British player too!
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Beautiful, wonderful. I love Bill Evans and this is a great album. I will never tire of listening to it . I am so pleased to have it in my collection.
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