10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Maybe not the greatest but definitely great,
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This review is from: The Greatest Jazz Pianist of All Time (Songs Remastered) (MP3 Download)
'The Greatest Jazz Pianist of All Time'? - That distant rumbling noise you can hear must be Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Thelonius Monk and half a dozen more turning in their graves. But though Evans may not be definitively the greatest of all time (no one is), he's certainly up there with the greats, as one of the most original, sensitive and downright romantic of jazz musicians.
I have heard people deny that he's a jazz pianist at all - though I don't know what else he is - and it's true that he's not entirely typical: white, middle-class, classically trained and not particularly imbued with the spirit of the blues. He is the pianist on most of the tracks on Miles Davis' classic 'Kind of Blue' (indeed he wrote or co-wrote a couple of the tracks 'Blue in Green' and 'Flamenco Sketches', though they're credited to Miles on the album), but for the bluesiest number, 'Freddie Freeloader', Miles turned to Wynton Kelly, and you can see why - Evans' mode is always more Debussy-esque than Gutbucket.
And if you don't like bass solos, then this won't be for you (though if anything can convert you, this will) because his trios always feature extended interplay between piano and bass (especially when Scott LaFaro is playing) and indeed with the drums as well. This is perhaps his most original contribution to the medium of the jazz trio: instead of a soloist supported by a rhythm section, as you might find with Oscar Peterson or Erroll Garner (not that there's anything wrong with that), there is a continually shifting and intimate interplay between the three instruments (or, in his collaborations with Jim Hall, with a guitar, or even - in his groundbreaking multi-tracked sessions - with himself.)
His discography is extensive, but this compilation is not at all bad as an introduction, and - at £2.49 (grab it while you can - it probably won't last) it's certainly value for money. However, since I wrote this review I have seen there is another compilation available 120 Bill Evans' Essentials (Remastered Version) which is even better value as it gives you 120 tracks for £2.99 - it duplicates 33 of the 47 tracks here, and also includes nearly all of three more classic albums, so it would now have to be the number one recommendation. However, it also includes 40 or more tracks of less 'essential' material in which Evans is no more than a sideman to Tony Scott or Zoot Sims, which you will probably not want to listen to as often, so this is still a compelling selection without the need to constantly skip tracks, and remains a worthy alternative or (at this price) supplement.
So what do you get? 7 out of 12 tracks from his 1956 first album 'New Jazz Conceptions' - not his best, but well worth hearing.
All 10 tracks from his 1961 album 'Explorations' with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. (Though several are mistitled - see below.)
All 6 of the tracks from the original LP version of 'Waltz for Debby' again with LaFaro and Motian - this is widely rated as one of the greatest piano trio albums of all time. (Though the CD version contained extra tracks not included here, and of course it is only one half of the tracks recorded at the great gig at The Village Vanguard.)
5 out of the 8 tracks from 1962's 'Moon Beams' - the first album recorded after the death of LaFaro, with Chuck Israels on bass, though one track ('Re: Person I Knew') seems to be cut and fades out a minute too soon.
All 9 tracks from 'How My Heart Sings', recorded at the same session as 'Moon Beams'.
All but one track from 1962's 'Interplay' with Jim Hall and Freddie Hubbard (again one track fades early).
All but the first album are among his finest work - even though there is plenty more where these came from - and would form an excellent introduction to his oeuvre and make a solid basis for further exploration. And if you just want some gentle, unobtrusive, dinner-jazz to play in the background - well, many might say it was a bit of a waste of some of the subtlest and most delicate jazz ever recorded, and some people (not me) might even call you a philistine, but actually (if you skip the tracks from Interplay) it will probably fulfil the purpose admirably; and since, to judge from the dinner noise to be heard throughout the classic Village Vanguard gig, he seems to have given of his best in such circumstances, he probably wouldn't mind.
Here's a full list of the tracks and the albums that (I think) they come from. Many thanks to MikeG who pointed out that 5 tracks from 'Explorations' have been wrongly titled on this compilation. I have now indicated the mistitled tracks with an X and put the correct title in brackets. If anyone has any further corrections, please comment. (An asterix indicates that the track also appears on 120 Essentials.)
I Love You (New Jazz Conceptions)
In Your Own Sweet Way (Take 1) (How My Heart Sings)*
Ev'rything I Love (How My Heart Sings)*
If You Could See Me Now (Moon Beams)*
X Beautiful Love (Take 1) (Actually 'Sweet and Lovely' - Explorations)
Milestones (Waltz for Debby)*
I'll Never Smile Again (Take 6) (Interplay)
Re- Person I Knew (Moon Beams - cut)*
In Love in Vain (Moon Beams)*
Haunted Heart (Explorations)*
Conception (New Jazz Conceptions)
My Romance (New Jazz Conceptions)*
Five (New Jazz Conceptions)
Some Other Time (Waltz for Debby)
The Boy Next Door (Explorations)*
Beautiful Love (Take 2) (Explorations)
X I Wish I Knew (Actually 'How Deep is the Ocean' - Explorations)*
Show-Type Tune (How My Heart Sings)*
I Should Care (How My Heart Sings)*
I Fall in Love Too Easily (Moon Beams)
In Your Own Sweet Way (Take 2) (How My Heart Sings)
Walking Up (How My Heart Sings)*
X How Deep Is the Ocean (Actually 'Nardis' - Explorations)*
Easy Living (New Jazz Conceptions)*
Detour Ahead (Take 2) (Waltz for Debby)*
My Foolish Heart (Waltz for Debby)*
X Elsa (Actually 'Beautiful Love' Take 1 - Explorations)*
X Nardis (Actually 'Elsa' - Explorations)*
Stairway to the Stars (Moon Beams)
X Sweet and Lovely (Actually 'I Wish I Knew' - Explorations)*
Our Delight (New Jazz Conceptions)
Waltz for Debby, Pt. 1 (Waltz for Debby)*
My Romance (Take 1) (Waltz for Debby)*
Summertime (How My Heart Sings)*
I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (New Jazz Conceptions)*
Speak Low (New Jazz Conceptions)
Interplay (Interplay - cut)*
Displacement (New Jazz Conceptions)
34 Skidoo (How My Heart Sings)*
When You Wish Upon a Star (Interplay)*
You and the Night and the Music (Interplay)*
I'll Never Smile Again (Interplay)*
Very Early (Moon Beams)*
How My Heart Sings (How My Heart Sings)*
Waltz for Debby, Pt. 2 (New Jazz Conceptions)*
Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Interplay)*
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Sep 2013 18:24:50 BDT
M. A. Coverson says:
Well done. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and hard work. I downloaded this collection a few months ago and have been studiously going through my Bill Evans cds and trying to match track with track. I can take a short cut now curtosy of your labours. Interested in what you were saying about Evans' standing in the pantheon of jazz greats. Ken Burns' History Of Jazz affords Evans barely a minute's mention in its whole 12 plus hours, testiment to the fact that Wynton Marsalis, a major adviser to Burns, believes that for the music to be jazz it has to draw on the Blues. Narrow, or what? Thanks again.
Posted on 19 Nov 2013 15:18:36 GMT
Thanks for the helpful review. May I add a correction? "How Deep is the Ocean" and "Nardis" are the versions from the Explorations album. I also note that Amazon have currently mis-titled some tracks; so their list of samples should be amended as follows:
17. How Deep is the Ocean;
27. Beautiful Love;
30. I Wish I Knew.
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2013 03:31:04 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Dec 2013 20:49:35 GMT
Thanks a lot for this, MikeG. I'd spotted Beautiful Love was mistitled, but, not having a copy of Explorations handy, I missed the others and was puzzled by the disparities in timing and so misattributed some tracks to other albums. All fixed now.
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