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34
4.6 out of 5 stars
Portrait In Jazz
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
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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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2010
Since the time I saw him on the BBC Jazz 625 programme back in the first days of BBC2 I have enjoyed the piano playing of Bill Evans. Since that time I have collected a number of his albums but this particular album reminds of that programme and as such I count it AMONG THE BEST.
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on 26 May 2015
Bill Evans trio albums is mostly masterpiecies, just great great music with wonderful sound, however Evans albums with Scott L on bas is a special
treat and a excitment to listen to, his skill is 100% and in stereo this specific album Portrait in Jazz is magnificent, and well recommended, one of his best albums.
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Excellent Trio album with Bill evans really highlighting his ability on the piano On this one it contains a selection of classic tunes see if you can recognise them in someways if you do it makes the album better because you understand what he has done to the songs
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