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4.5 out of 5 stars42
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 26 February 2003
Portrait in Jazz was the first of only four (official) albums made by what Evans fans know as "the first trio" - the one with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian - which introduced a new approach to the music of a jazz piano trio. Whereas the conventional trio tended to feature the pianist as a 'star soloist' with bass and percussion essentially as 'accompanists' with a fixed and limited role, Evans, La Faro and drummer Paul Motian aimed to develop more of a sense of equal and spontaneous interplay. Scott La Faro was the right man in the right place: his virtuoso technique and strong musical personality enabled him to play the more active, assertive (but compatible) role Evans wanted for the group. By the time this trio played its famous sessions at The Village Vanguard (Live at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby) this 'collective improvisation' was well developed. Portrait in Jazz being the first album by the trio, there's a strong sense of discovery and enthusiasm which, I think, gives the music a greater freshness and vitality than the subsequent albums (even if in other ways they may be preferred by some listeners), and it's those qualities, along with the sensitive, alert musicianship of the trio which makes this surely one of the most absorbing and enjoyable of Evans's many albums.
Part of its appeal is also the excellent choice of material, but much of the interest lies in what Evans in particular does with it. Often this is mainly a matter of the unusual chord voicings and adjustments of rhythm and phrasing he gives to a familiar tune, which open up wider harmonic and rhythmic perspectives for improvising. You hear this from the opening bars of the first number, "Come Rain or Come Shine" and it is evident also in the slower ballads, a haunting version of "Spring is Here" and a probing reading of "When I fall in Love". Notice for example how, on the latter very familiar tune, Evans's slightly 'off-centre' harmonies create a different kind of emotional tone from the suave, sentimental one which singers usually give it.
Among the other high spots are the famous up-tempo version of "Autumn Leaves", with its infectious swing and lively interplay between piano and bass, similarly propulsive readings of "What is this Thing Called Love" and "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and a marvellous "Blue in Green" on which the rapport between Evans and his partners is especially close.
A classic piano jazz album.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 April 2012
Few albums by any artist can be described as 'essential' or 'life affirming', but this wonderful trio date is very much of that order of merit. The legendary combination of Bill Evans(piano), Scot LaFaro (bass) and Paul Motian(drums)are beautifully captured in this set of mostly swinging standards.This is music of real charm and sophistication, thoughtfully executed but with plenty of brio and feeling into the bargain. It's no wonder then that this band have been the so celebrated and held up as an perfect example of musicality and sense of common purpose to all such similar trios since.

If you are like me, you'll find much to enjoy in this joyful musical celebration. Bill Evans simply is such a great exponent of the piano, that it's hard to believe that this is the work of human hands. His touch is so lyrical, his inventiveness endless and his ability work within a tune yet always bringing something new to view is just astonishing.But of course his band mates are no different. They augment the great pianist's efforts brilliantly- always supportive but always looking for opportunities to add their own distinctive touches to the music.This band channel their creativity into creating a music that allows each member a chance to shine but always in line with the melodic narrative rather then using the tune as a platform for indulgent noodling.Perhaps this in the end is the secret that makes 'Portrait in Jazz' such a worthwhile album.

I love this album,plain and simple.It is an unpretentious combination of tasty swing and the romantic.Play it anytime of day and I defy you not to feel instantly better. Everything here is great, but my favorites have to be the lovely 'When I Fall in Love','Blue in Green'and 'Spring is Here'. Just ravishing! Highly recommended.
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on 13 December 2015
This was first produced for CD on original jazz classics OJC 088, with Scot LaFaro [b] and Paul Motion [d] and recorded mainly in 1961. This trio was 'one of the finest piano trios ever documented' [Richard Cook of Penguin Guide to Jazz Recording's words, not mine]
The problem I have with this Hallmark version is not with the music, which is excellent as you might expect from Bill in his prime, but that the album has the look, feel and sound of a street-market rip-off. It is thin-sounding and does the original recording, which from memory was reasonably good, a sad disservice. The Riverside LP recording from it was taken would have been packed with information, all of it now missing, e.g. recording dates and venue[s] and personnel in particular. Once into the great man's music, these facts become important; the sound of BET evolved over time with changing personnel who were, and in some cases still are, legends of American jazz. Check bassists Scot LaFaro, Ray Brown and Marc Johnson, or Philly Joe Jones, Paul Motion, and Jack DeJohnette drums. Avoid labels like Pickwick and Hallmark [of greeting card fame?], and seek out OJC and Mosaic titles for greater authenticity.
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on 21 March 2009
Bill has made so many brilliant albums but this is the best. I have been listening to him since 1960 and have so many of his cds but nothing beats this. Scot la Faro was killed not long after this album was made. He really did change the way jazz bass was played and his playing here is unequalled. Paul Motian, the ever sensitive drummer, ever tasteful..and Bill at his best..Autumn leaves, Come rain or come shine etc never bettered..I can still hum some of Bills improvisation.. it is so memorable.

If you are a modern jazz or indeed any fine music lover you must have this
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on 24 April 2005
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.
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on 7 November 2009
A perfect combination creativity and sheer brilliance that possibly will never be equalled in the next 1000 years
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on 6 September 2015
What could possibly be added to the many excellent reviews? An artist whose work can not only change one's mood but adapt to whatever your mood may be - enjoy this album as the background to Sunday papers or a glass of wine - or just listen to it in minute detail and savour every note. Quite simply, the best!
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on 31 May 2013
This album is really top quality. The trio melts together so well and the choice of songs is brilliant. A personal favourite of mine is "Someday My Prince Will Come". How they managed to take a simple song from Snow White and turn it into a beautiful jazz trio piece is beyond me.
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on 14 December 2012
I have said it all above, but above all, for someone who had the making of a concert pianist, he has achieved such a wonderful technique on his piano. His music absolutely touches your heart and the true romance as far as I am concerned.
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on 7 November 2015
Arguably the finest jazz creator and proponent ever. A turbulent and tragically drug-soaked life, intermingled with music sophisticated jazz musicians will be playing one hundred years from now, and there's not many that could make that claim. Do I sound like I worship at the Evans thought-memorial? Yes, and so does the jazz cognescenti the world over...this is probably my 5th or 6th Evans album, and even though I have a multi-thousand CD storage system, every one of Evan's CD remains on my CD shelves...just in case...........
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