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MikeG (England)

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Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold)
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold)
Price: £4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The music is recommended - but be wary of the download., 16 Nov. 2013
Some excellent music, and this session was more important in Miles's musical development than is commonly recognised. I'd like to write a proper review sometime. But for now, I want to warn you off the download version from "JB Production" which is currently advertising. To judge from the samples on the website it is marred by a repeated background click which suggests to me that it was copied from someone's used vinyl LP.

The Complete Riverside Recordings [BOX SET]
The Complete Riverside Recordings [BOX SET]

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "part of the recorded legacy of a 5-star musician", 13 July 2013
This impressive-looking collection brings together on 12 CDs almost every track Bill Evans recorded as leader or featured artist for the Riverside label between 1956 and 1963. The only omission I know of is the incomplete take - interrupted by a power failure - of "Gloria's Step" from the 1961 Village Vanguard Sessions (It is included in the 3-CD "Complete Village Vanguard" set). This collection therefore documents much of the formative phase of Evans's career and his development from an admired but not widely known sideman to one of the major jazz performers and a significant influence on other musicians. Most of the music is in the familiar trio format (piano, bass and drums); but the collection includes two solo piano sessions which were unreleased during Evans's lifetime, as well as the `Know What I Mean?' quartet session with altoist Cannonball Adderley (originally released under Adderley's name) and two quintet sessions featuring guitarist Jim Hall: `Interplay' with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and `Loose Bloose' with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims.

For a useful, concisely informative summary of the contents, I refer you to the customer review by N Dorward on However, the review could mislead you by inadvertently implying that this is a collection of Bill Evans's Riverside albums as such.
So I make the following points about the organisation and presentation of the material.
1. This set presents the results of a series of recording sessions rather than a collection of the original albums.
2. It is organised chronologically (a) in order of the sessions and (b) with the tracks in the order in which they were recorded at the session. For those who followed the progress of Evans's career by hearing most of the key albums as they appeared, this chronological presentation gives a different perspective on some of the material. This applies especially to the 1961 Village Vanguard material (originally the albums, `Sunday at the Village Vanguard' and `Waltz for Debby'), to the `Moonbeams'/'How My Heart Sings' material and to the Shelly's Manne-Hole material (`Live at Shelly's Manne-Hole' and `Time Remembered').
3. For the music to fit onto 12 discs, different sessions have had to be overlapped from one disc to the next. For example, disc 7 begins with the concluding tracks of the Village Vanguard sessions, which are followed by five solo tracks from a later session, and it then goes on to the first four tracks of the `Moonbeams'/`How My Heart Sings' session, which then continues onto disc 8, and so on. All of the discs contain overlaps of this kind.

You could say that this presentation of the music follows the principle of historical accuracy, if you agree with Henry Ford's dictum that "history is just one damn thing after another". You could also say that it's a rather academic mode of presentation which doesn't have much to do with the way people ordinarily listen to recorded music. It is also historically inaccurate in its implication that these Riverside sessions form a continuum. What is not represented in this 12-disc collection is a large body of work by Evans, contemporary with this Riverside material, which was recorded under the names of, or in collaboration with, other artists, including Miles Davis, George Russell, John Lewis, Tony Scott, Chet Baker, Michel Legrand, Lee Konitz, Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer. Therefore this Riverside collection, for all its virtues, gives only a partial account of Bill Evans's development and achievement during the Riverside years.
Another view of the collection is given by Cook and Morton in their Penguin Guide to jazz recordings: for them, it would be worth 5 stars rather than 4 if the separate albums were not so easily available. But they seem to contradict that judgement by awarding most of the separate albums less than 5 stars each, and they too inadvertently imply that this collection comprises the original albums. My own view is that the collection contains a lot of excellent music, not all of it of 5-star quality, which nevertheless merits 5 stars as an important part of the recorded legacy of a 5-star musician. But that judgement applies only if you prefer to have the music presented chronologically rather than in the conventional format of a series of albums.

So who would want to buy this music, presented in this way? I would guess that (1) buyers who are fairly new to Evans's music would prefer to buy the key albums separately and (2) those most likely to be interested in the chronological presentation of the music are those who already own most of it in the form of the original albums. I suspect that its appeal is most likely to be to university and music college libraries. Unfortunately, it is unlikely ever to find a place in an English public library, especially the six nearest to where I live, whose managers seem not to know that a major musician named Bill Evans ever existed.

Everybody Digs Bill Evans
Everybody Digs Bill Evans

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making the Piano Swing and Sing, 19 Dec. 2007
This is an important Bill Evans album, only the second one under his own name and containing the Evans classic: "Peace Piece". It preceded by a few months the session which produced Kind of Blue - a seminal Miles Davis album in whose music Evans himself was of major significance. It was to be followed by a long series of albums in which Evans transformed the nature of the jazz piano trio, making the pianist, bassist and drummer more a partnership of improvising equals. On Everybody Digs... the roles of bassist and drummer are still the conventional ones of accompanists to the pianist as leader and "star soloist". But the key elements of Evans's musical personality were already in place and it was obvious that his was an important and individual new voice in jazz pianism. The faster pieces such as "Night and Day" and "Oleo" carry echoes of be-bop (emphasised by the driving, intense drumming) and of the cerebral piano style of Lennie Tristano; but they already show a significant development beyond these influences. Evans's invigorating "swing" and rhythmic precision at this kind of tempo was to remain a key aspect of his music; but so was the more elegant and exploratory mid-tempo playing on a piece such as "Tenderly", played as a jazz waltz (another type of piece which was to remain a staple of Evans's music).
But the other key aspect of his music which was to be of key importance was his work on slow ballads. To these he brought a combination of qualities which took jazz piano ballad playing beyond the rather florid, "cocktail lounge" style. These qualities included a kind of distilled, lyrical romanticism, an intense concentration on the essence of the piece rather than an external "decorating" of the theme with extraneous pianistic flourishes, the use of subtle chording (partly influenced by the "impressionist" harmony of composers like Debussy and Ravel) and an ability to make the piano "sing". "What is There to Say?" is a good demonstration of these qualities, and also of Evans's feeling for the structure of a ballad. Equally impressive are the unaccompanied ballads, "Young and Foolish", "Lucky to be Me" and "Some Other Time". The latter, included on the CD as a bonus track, is perhaps more of interest because of what it gave birth to: in working on its introductory bars Evans found himself developing out of them a modal composition he aptly titled "Peace Piece". The use of modal harmony, rather than the conventional chord sequence of a popular song, gives the piece a sense of stillness and tranquillity as Evans weaves a series of hypnotic variations above a few repeating chords. It's similar in approach and effect to "Flamenco Sketches" on Kind of Blue, except that, being a solo piano piece, it also echoes the atmosphere and effect of some of Debussy's piano Preludes and Etudes, and there's a moment near the end where it seems to allude to a piano piece of Ravel's, "Oiseaux Triste" from Miroirs.
But I hope the emphasis in this review on technicalities and on the album's "importance" hasn't suggested that the CD is a "heavy" listening experience. Far from it: this is an enjoyable, varied and communicative album by a major jazz artist enjoying the development of his considerable talent. Confirmed Evans fans will either have it or should acquire it, and there's a lot here which more casual buyers who don't know his music would enjoy.

Sonny Rollins On Impulse!
Sonny Rollins On Impulse!
Price: £10.76

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "One of the best groups Rollins ever recorded with", 19 Dec. 2007
The 1960s were a problematic period for Rollins's music. After a successful "comeback" album with Jim Hall in 1962 he seemed to lose a sense of direction, seemingly dissatisfied with traditional jazz material and harmonic structures and never staying for long with any one performing group. The flirtations with "free" improvisation and over-extended solo performance took him away from the true sources of his inspiration and left no music of lasting interest. Nevertheless, they did add beneficially to the tonal resources of his playing and brought to his improvising on conventional jazz material a new sense of harmonic risk-taking.

Those qualities are well in evidence on this album, with the possible exception of the weakest track, "Everything Happens to Me", on which Rollins soon runs out of inspiration (or interest), leaving pianist Ray Bryant to keep the music going with a subtly crafted solo. The best track - one of Rollins's finest performances - is a witty, inventive, up-tempo "Three Little Words", an example of how he can take a banal, trivial tune and transform it through a kind of creative alchemy.

The other tracks are not up to this level of inspiration, but are full of good things. "Hold 'Em Joe" is one of those calypso tunes which always brought out the joyous, extrovert side of his playing and there's a nicely shaped, ruminative reading of "Blue Room", at a perfectly judged tempo, which is notable also for some subtle dovetailing of saxophone and piano.

"On Green Dolphin Street" is a rather strange track - as on "Everything Happens to Me" Rollins seems to leave most of the work to his colleagues. After a promising statement of the theme at a fairly fast tempo, in his solo he becomes preoccupied with trying to reduce it down to the simplest melodic essentials employing the fewest possible notes. I leave you to judge whether it is an example of that boredom with conventional jazz material which often seemed to afflict Rollins during the 1960s, or whether it is a successful piece of creative jazz minimalism. Like every track on the album it is a good group performance.

For me, this was one of the best groups Rollins ever recorded with and it's a pity they produced only the one album. Bryant plays superbly throughout, in a post-bop style which seems to distil the essence of three decades of jazz piano (without sounding at all derivative), and Booker and Roker are both alert and inventive musicians, so that there are always interesting things going on in the rhythm section which enliven, without disturbing, what is going on in the 'front line'. Despite the quirkiness and the uneven quality of Rollins's playing, it's an absorbing album that repays repeated listening.

I should add that these tracks - minus "On Green Dolphin Street" - are also available on a mid-price CD in the "Priceless Jazz" series, along with three excellent tracks from two other 1960s Rollins sessions: Alfie and East Broadway Rundown. I would recommend it over this CD as a fine sampler of the best of Rollins's work in the 1960s, though it's a pity that space was not found for the omitted track.

Compact Jazz
Compact Jazz
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £13.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better Bill Evans samplers, 5 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Compact Jazz (Audio CD)
Another Bill Evans compilation from the Verve label. How many stars you think it deserves depends how much you want this selection rather than the albums (all available at the time of writing) from which they come. The tracks are from sessions recorded between 1962 and 1968. If this seems a limited scope, in fact one of the potential attractions of the disc is the variety of the material, representing Evans in solo, duo, trio and overdubbed settings as well as with orchestral accompaniment. Another potential attraction is the range of musicians, including an intriguing line-up of bassists and drummers and, on one track, guitarist Jim Hall.
The solo piece is "I Loves You, Porgy" from the 1968 album 'Live at Montreux'. On that album the sound is a bit cramped and some distortion gives it a rather 'metallic' edge - but it's not poor enough to prevent enjoyment of a fine performance, less introspective, more intense and impassioned than the trio version on the 1961 Village Vanguard 'Waltz for Debby' album. The one duo track is "I've Got You Under My Skin" from 'Intermodulation', the second duo album Evans made with Jim Hall. It's an enjoyable track that swings along with some nicely dovetailed interplay between the two instruments.
The disc gives us 5 (possibly 6) different Evans trios, none of them the best known - unless exception is made for the trio with Chuck Israels and Larry Bunker which toured Britain and Europe in the mid-60s. Their "Elsa" (from 'Trio 65') is slightly brisker than the more measured, wistful versions on 'Explorations' and on the quartet album Evans made with Cannonball Adderley. It has an appealing blend of lyrical feeling and rhythmic subtlety and is well recorded. Even more infectiously swinging is "Little Lulu", a trite but engaging tune from 'Trio 64'. Of particular interest is the contribution of the virtuoso bassist Gary Peacock, who later became a long-serving member of Keith Jarrett's Evans-inspired 'Standards Trio'. The other member of Jarrett's trio, drummer Jack de Johnette, turns up (with bassist Eddie Gomez) on "A Sleeping Bee", another swinging up-tempo piece. He proves to be one of the most forceful of Evans's drummers. Maybe his and Gomez's strong playing is partly what brings out a greater assertiveness in Evans, on this track and elsewhere on the album from which it comes ('Live at Montreux', 1968). The ballad, "My Foolish Heart" is the version recorded at the fine 'Town Hall Concert' of 1966 - one of Evans's best albums for Verve - with Chuck Israels and Arnold Wise on drums. It's not as dreamily poetic and introspective as the Village Vanguard version of this tune but it has its own expressive beauty. The earliest of the trio performances is "I Believe in You" from the album 'Empathy', which Evans made with bassist Monty Budwig and the excellent, inventive West Coast drummer Shelly Manne. It's an especially lively, witty performance; the clear recording and stereo separation of the instruments helps you to appreciate the sparkling interplay between the musicians.
There are three pieces from 'Conversations With Myself', the first album on which Evans employed the technique of 'overdubbing' three simultaneous tracks of himself playing and improvising on a set of themes. Several times over the years, I've tried to like this music but without much success. I can appreciate the technical skill involved in the enterprise and some brilliant playing; but whenever I find myself enjoying something in any of the pieces, I end up feeling that I would enjoy it more if the 'other' pianos didn't get in the way. However, another possible advantage of this compilation disc is that it gives you a chance to sample from that album two finely wrought ballad pieces - "Love Theme from 'Spartacus'" and "Round Midnight" - and the up-tempo "How About You" which builds up a driving impetus that sounds at times like a boogie-woogie performance. If you like these three pieces you will almost certainly like the rest of 'Conversations With Myself'. Maybe one day I will too.
And then there are the two pieces that feature Evans with a 'symphony orchestra' playing Claus Ogerman's arrangements of two 'classical' pieces. Both begin with slowish, romantic statements of the themes by the pianist followed by the orchestra, then lead into an up-tempo improvised section by the Evans trio, ending with trio and orchestra combined. "Granados" is based on the piece, "The Maiden and the Nightingale" by Enrique Granados. The section by the trio is in waltz time and is markedly faster than the theme itself, creating a sharply contrasting mood and atmosphere. "Pavane" is a well-known theme by Gabriel Fauré which became even more famous several years ago when it was pressed into service as the football World Cup theme. Again, the trio's section moves into up-tempo, though the contrast with the opening tempo is less dramatic than on "Granados". There is some good playing from the trio on both pieces (with Israels on bass and either Larry Bunker or Grady Tate on drums). The orchestral contributions are a matter of taste - in my opinion mostly more 'easy-listening' than 'symphonic' in style, but in their way quite sensitively played and well-recorded. If you like these two tracks I think you will like at least most of the complete album from which they come.
I'm normally a bit lukewarm about Evans compilation albums, but for the reasons I've given I think this one of the better ones. It might not select the 'best' tracks from the various albums, but the general standard is good and it's an interesting and quite wide-ranging selection. It's been in my collection for a long time and I've enjoyed listening to it, especially on the car stereo; I've also gone on to buy seven of the eight albums it selects from.
You might also be interested in reading my Amazon reviews of two other Bill Evans compilation CDs: 'Jazz Showcase' and 'Quiet Now/Never Let Me Go'.


9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Half a Great Album, 5 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Milestones (Audio CD)
If Milestones is one of Miles's great albums, meriting a 5-star rating, I think it's mainly on the strength of its three best tracks: "Milestones", "Straight No Chaser" and "Sid's Ahead". For me, the three less impressive tracks are the ones at the fastest tempos. "Billy Boy" is a feature for the rhythm section as a piano trio, therefore mainly for pianist Red Garland. Unfortunately, although a technically accomplished player and possibly highly regarded by many listeners, he always seemed to me a lightweight soloist; and since the piece is a corny arrangement of a very trite tune it's no surprise if it fails to improve with repeated listening, despite the brilliance of Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones which gives the piece its vitality. "Two Bass Hit" may have been an entertaining novelty number in the heyday of be-bop but it's hardly one of John Lewis's best compositions. Miles doesn't solo on this one, so it's mainly a feature for Coltrane's and Adderley's fast playing. If you like that sort of thing, there's more of it on "Dr Jackle", another rather uninteresting boppish theme. Coltrane and Adderley demonstrate their skill at playing lots of notes per minute. Miles shows how fewer notes can be used to greater effect ("less is more"), giving the impression that he is playing on top of the tempo rather than racing to keep up with it.

"Milestones" (a.k.a. "Miles") is better. Like most of the material on Miles's 'Kind of Blue' album it's a simply constructed but interesting modal theme which challenges the soloists and inspires them to some carefully thought out solos. Even better in my opinion is the group's version of Thelonius Monk's up-tempo blues, "Straight No Chaser". Like "Milestones" (though it's a different kind of piece) it's an interesting composition in its own right, ingeniously constructed out of a simple motif. With its strong harmonic foundation and bouncing swing it brings out the best in Coltrane and Adderley, as in Miles himself who plays with elegance as well as 'bite'. "Sid's Ahead" is another 12-bar blues, this one at a moderate 'walking' pace - a type of piece and a tempo which suited Miles and inspired some of his best improvising (try "Walkin' " and "Bags' Groove" from 1954 and "All Blues" and "Freddie Freeloader" on 'Kind of Blue').

If you like Coltrane's and Adderley's playing of this vintage (before Trane went 'avant garde' and Cannonball went commercial) you will probably want this album if you don't already have it. If you like Garland's piano playing you will enjoy "Billy Boy" more than I do. I respect his technical skill, but I never hear any kind of 'depth' in anything he played. I've known people to feel the same about 'Cannonball' Adderley. Miles in his solos never plays less than well and there is some of his best work on what I've identified as the three best tracks. Paul Chambers is superb as usual. Philly Joe Jones is magnificent and, for aficionados of modern jazz drumming, he may well be the real star of the session.

The bonus 'alternate takes' of "Milestones" and "Straight No Chaser" are worth having. You might think the 'alternate take' of "Two Bass Hit" is worth having too. If you like that sort of thing.

The Brilliant/Consecration 1/Consecration 2
The Brilliant/Consecration 1/Consecration 2
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £42.95

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Man Reborn, 2 April 2004
In the last year of his life, Bill Evans toured with what was to be his ‘last trio’. His partners – Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera– were talented musicians well suited to the more extrovert and overtly ‘brilliant’ kind of music Evans was now producing, and they supported and inspired him through a new creative phase, to the extent that he came to feel that this group was his best since his famous ‘first trio’ with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian. Although this ‘last trio’ never cut a studio album, since Evans’s death several live recordings have documented the magnificent music they had been producing.
From Aug. 31 to Sept. 7, 1980, the trio played at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner. It was a very successful engagement, but it proved to be the last that Evans completed. He was already in very poor health - though you wouldn’t know it from the performances - and eight days later he died. Fortunately, the sessions were recorded; and are available on two separate Milestone sets. The 8-CD box, ‘The Last Waltz’ contains the ‘second sets’ the trio performed on those nights. The ‘first sets’ appear in another 8-CD box titled ‘Consecration’. The trio played many of the same pieces in different sets, so that there is much repetition of titles (the Consecration box has 68 performances of 24 tunes). Also several of the titles are repeated on other sessions by this trio – for example, on the highly recommended ‘The Paris Concert’ of 1979, available on two separate CDs. There is obvious interest in comparing what a great jazz musician does with a theme in different performances, but it would be understandable if you thought the full Consecration box too much of a good thing.
Fortunately, in the case of the Consecration material there is an attractive alternative. The Timeless label has issued this selection, available either as three separate discs: ‘The Brilliant Bill Evans’, ‘Consecration 1’ and ‘Consecration 2’, or as this 3-CD set (the three CDs in their separate cases inside a quite sturdy card box). As a production it is very short on helpful information: each CD has the same rather inadequate liner note giving a run-down of Evans’s career but telling us nothing about the music on the disc. Among the inaccuracies, we are told that Evans died on 6th September, even though we are also told that he completed the Keystone Korner engagement two days later. There is no additional information in the 3-CD box. However, these three discs usefully bring together 22 of the 24 titles in the full Consecration collection, eliminating all but one repeated title, “Knit for Mary F”. I don’t know why this one is repeated, nor why “Who Can I Turn To?” and “But Beautiful” are not included. I also don’t know whether this 3-CD set selects the ‘best’ version in each case (which is anyway, of course, a matter of opinion); but they are all excellent performances, with the various aspects of the trio’s playing well represented, from the lyrical, intense and romantic ballad performances to the more extrovert and virtuosic up-tempo pieces.
What is particularly remarkable about these sessions is that under the circumstances Evans played so well – more like a man reborn than someone near the point of death. It’s also fortunate that most of the complete Consecration, and all of the material on these three CDs, is so well recorded. With this trio Evans exploited a wider range of the keyboard’s high to low registers (and a wider dynamic range) than in his earlier work; and this is well captured, along with the beauty, the variety of tone colour and the ‘singing’ qualities of his playing, even though it’s a live recording. One of the immediately striking differences from the early ‘first trio’ is Evans’s more energetic, uninhibited approach to the material. In his work with this trio he seems to revel in his own brilliance of technique and invention, and this shows itself not only in the vigorous, exuberant playing in the faster numbers such as “My Romance”, “You and the Night and the Music” and his engaging composition, “Bill’s Hit Tune” but also in the probing, exploratory and sometimes elaborate style he employs in slower pieces.
Those who, like me, have a particular fondness for the way Evans played “My Foolish Heart” on the 1961 Village Vanguard ‘Waltz for Debby’ album, and “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” on the album, ‘Moonbeams’ will be interested to compare his more robust treatment of them here. While retaining the respect and affection he usually showed towards such ballads, he explores them rigorously with greater emphasis on reconstructing the tune rhythmically and harmonically, the pieces becoming more like pianistic ‘studies’ than the restrained, introspective reveries he made of them in his earlier manner. So the more subtle, ruminative sides of his musical persona, along with the familiar lyrical qualities in his playing, are well in evidence in these pieces and in beautiful readings of Paul Simon’s “I Do It For Your Love”, the haunting “Gary’s Theme” and Bill’s ballad compositions “Laurie”, “Two Lonely People” and “Your Story”.
Either the complete Consecration material, or this selection on 3 CDs, is highly recommended to anyone who likes Bill Evans’s music. There may be a price advantage to buying the three discs together in the box; otherwise, you have the option of sampling this music one disc at a time. What we now need is for Milestone to produce a similar selection from the other Keystone Korner sessions in the ‘Last Waltz’ collection. For example, the 16 titles that do not appear in the Consecration recordings would make an attractive 2-CD set to complement these three from the Consecration collection. In fact, Milestone could (but probably won’t) provide us with a 5-CD ‘Keystone Korner’ selection that selects all the 40 titles in the ‘Last Waltz’ and ‘Consecration’ collections. What a marvellous cornerstone to any Bill Evans collection that would be!

'58 Sessions: Featuring Stella
'58 Sessions: Featuring Stella

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By the Kind of Blue sextet, 15 Feb. 2004
If you’ve been impressed by ‘Kind of Blue’ and you’re looking for more of the same, where do you go? Well, there isn’t anything quite like that album, and it depends what it is you like about it that you would hope to find elsewhere. ‘Milestones’ is an obvious one to consider, as it’s by the sextet with Coltrane and Adderley on saxophones – but with the magnificent Philly Joe Jones on drums instead of the more ‘contained’ Jimmy Cobb, and pianist Red Garland rather than Bill Evans. Its style is more ‘hard bop’ than anything on ‘KoB’ with most of the pieces at faster tempos. It’s only “Sid’s Ahead” – a ‘walking’ blues with some majestic improvising from Miles – which approaches the kind of relaxed groove you find on ‘KoB’. That’s not to say the album isn’t recommended, but ‘Kind of Blue 2’ it isn’t. Nor is this one. But it is, I think, the only other album which is entirely by the KoB personnel (some other tracks by them - for example, from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival - occasionally appear on compilation discs). This CD is compiled from two different sessions recorded in 1958 – the year before ‘KoB’.
“On Green Dolphin Street”, “Fran Dance”, “Stella by Starlight” and “Love for Sale” are from a studio session, the first three at slowish tempos and played in a mostly warm, mellow and genial style (unless you think that those adjectives couldn’t possibly apply to Coltrane’s playing). Miles uses a mute on all four pieces (in fact, “Straight No Chaser” is the only track on the disc on which he doesn’t play muted) and he plays well, in his intense, lyrical mode. If you like that side of Miles’s music you will like these pieces. If they don’t rise to the heights of the best of KoB, there are nevertheless some good solos from Coltrane, Adderley and Evans and some memorable moments, like the one in “Stella by Starlight” when Miles’s solo hands over to Coltrane’s with a dramatic high held note. You might be disappointed that Adderley doesn’t play on this track. Or you might not. The up-tempo “Love For Sale” is a lively performance with good solos from Adderley and Evans (Coltrane seems to struggle a bit with the chord changes) and Evans’s sparky introduction and prodding accompaniment drive the rhythm forward with remarkable confidence, considering that he was something of a ‘new boy’ with the group. “On Green Dolphin Street” is at a relaxed but well-judged pace and everyone solos well on this piece, with the rhythm section adapting well to each soloist.
The other tracks are from a live session at the Plaza, part of a ‘function’ at which Columbia was showing off some of its top jazz artists. The sound quality is inferior to that on the studio session – although both are in what the liner note describes as ‘pre-stereo’ sound (could they possibly mean ‘mono’?). Miles and the saxes come across clearly enough, but Paul Chambers’ bass and Evans’s piano suffer some distortion. The piano sounds as if it is being played in a different, less congenial, acoustic and although it can be heard clearly it suffers from a peculiar echo effect that detracts from the tonal beauty of Evans’s playing. This is a pity on “My Funny Valentine” as Evans is strongly featured here and plays what sounds like a superb solo, which makes me regret that he and Miles never recorded a quartet session. “Straight No Chaser” is taken much faster than on the ‘Milestones’ album and I think it suffers in the process, sounding a bit frantic and lacking that bouncing swing which gives the ‘Milestones’ version its special character. Sonny Rollins’s tune, “Oleo”, was always intended to be a fast piece but I think it too loses something by being a bit faster than the group as a whole seems comfortable with, although Miles, Evans and Adderley are still able to construct some good lines.
I’d have to call this CD recommendable, partly because it’s the only other one which is entirely by the Kind of Blue sextet, but also because the music has its own solid merits. A pity it lacks the quality of ‘post-mono’ recorded sound we get on ‘KoB’, although the sound on the four studio tracks is acceptable enough - clear, well balanced and in a warm acoustic.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2011 8:12 PM GMT

At The Village Vanguard
At The Village Vanguard
Offered by encorerecords
Price: £18.74

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why not have it all?, 15 Feb. 2004
This review is from: At The Village Vanguard (Audio CD)
It would be crazy to withhold a 5-star rating from this music, but I don't really recommend the CD. The music is wonderful - ten tracks from a famous live date by one of the best-ever small groups in jazz, the Bill Evans 'first trio' at the Village Vanguard in 1961. But who would want a selection which omits three excellent tracks: the ballads "Detour Ahead" and "Some Other Time" and the gently swinging waltz, "Alice in Wonderland"?

Probably the best alternative is to buy the two separate Village Vanguard albums: 'Waltz for Debby' and 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'. Opinions may differ about which is the best of the two; but I think that 'Waltz for Debby' is the one to go for first if you aren't ready to buy both. That entirely subjective recommendation is because I think that Evans was playing particularly well at slow and slowish tempos on this occasion and there are more examples of this on 'Waltz for Debby' than on 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard', notably the sublimely lyrical "My Foolish Heart" and the moving "I Loves You Porgy" (but you also need to hear "My Man's Gone Now", the one piece at slow ballad tempo on 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'). To save later regrets, buy the versions that contain alternate takes of some of the tracks, unless, as some listeners do, you think an original album is spoilt by the inclusion of material which the artist 'rejected'. Even if these takes are not essential they at least make the CDs better value.

Another alternative, for 'completists'who don't mind the expense, is to buy the 3-CD 'Complete Village Vanguard' set on the Japanese label, JVC Victor (VICJ-60951), which has all the available tracks from the sessions including alternate takes. I think it is only available as a pricey import. An even pricier alternative is to buy the complete Riverside recordings box set which includes this 'complete Village Vanguard' material. Isn't it amazing that more than 40 years after the event there is still not an official, well remastered, sensibly-priced 'Complete Village Vanguard' set which doesn't need to be expensively imported, and which would surely fit on two CDs?

However, if a one-disc selection is what you want, you could consider another alternative, which is to track down, if you can, the selection available on the Italian 'Giants of Jazz' label in its 'Immortal Concerts' series, under the title 'Waltz for Debby/Village Vanguard' (53207). It includes "Detour Ahead", "Some Other Time" and "Alice in Wonderland" which this Fantasy version omits, and it omits "Solar" and "Jade Visions"which the Fantasy includes. It is better value, with 11 tracks in good (if not the best possible) sound on a label which usually retails at budget price. However, at the moment it is difficult to get hold of.

But my recommendation is to avoid selections. This is music to live with and to come back to again and again, so you might as well go all the way and buy either the 'Complete Village Vanguard' edition or the two separate constituent albums.

I also recommend that anyone interested in this music should look up Adam Gopnik's New Yorker article, "That Sunday", which marked the 40th anniversary of the Village Vanguard date in 2001. It can be found on the Bill Evans Web Pages site.

east broadway rundown
east broadway rundown
Offered by WORLD WIDE MEDIA MARKET (12-24 Days for Delivery from California)
Price: £55.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity?, 8 Feb. 2004
This review is from: east broadway rundown (Audio CD)
This is a strange album. Someone had the excellent idea that these four musicians should combine their considerable talents in a recording studio, but it has the feel of a session that was maybe thrown together rather than carefully planned. What they played, or what was issued, was a rather uneven programme of just three pieces. The long title track, which took up one side of the original LP, features the quartet: Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones; the remaining two are by the trio (saxophone, bass and drums).
In a passing reference to this title track, in my Amazon review of the Rollins compilation CD in the ‘Priceless Jazz’ series, I was a bit dismissive about the performance, saying that it wastes the talents of the participants and is ‘rambling, self-indulgent and chaotic’. Listening to it again a few times recently I think I should withdraw at least one of those adjectives, and I find that I dislike it less than I did. It sounds initially as if it is one of Sonny’s attempts to engage (maybe with more curiosity than commitment) with the ‘free jazz’ movement which was in vogue at the time. The group seems to be going for the kind of up-tempo performance characteristic of Ornette Coleman’s 1960s pianoless quartet (with trumpeter Don Cherry). I remember wondering at the time whether Sonny was in the process of permanently leaving behind the kind of improvisation within traditional harmonic and rhythmic structures on which his musical progress had been based and moving into the kind of ‘freedom’ represented at the time particularly by Coleman, Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and – an even more ‘far out’ player - Albert Ayler. The composition of the album seems to reflect the ambivalence of Sonny’s situation: one ‘experimental’ or ‘avant garde’ piece (the title track) seeming to be cautiously trying out a sort of freedom, though within an element of structure, and the two trio pieces closer to traditional forms and procedures.
The title piece begins with a jagged, harmonically ambiguous blues-related theme in Ornette’s style, with the sax and trumpet oddly but effectively harmonised together. Although Sonny’s first solo begins to exploit the opportunities for harmonic and rhythmic freedom it’s not so much ‘chaotic’ as a bit aimless: he seems quickly to run short of ideas, and to be marking time - something which is disappointing to hear from the ‘saxophone colossus’ who in the previous decade was a master of logical, structured improvisation. Freddie Hubbard’s solo is a more suave, polished contribution. He sounds unintimidated by the semi-‘free’ setting and is quite conventionally ‘hard-bop’ in approach, in a way which sounds a bit incongruous after Sonny’s abstractions, and alongside Elvin’s churning polyrhythms.
Elvin sounds to me like the one member of the group who is able to enjoy the tightrope walk between conventional structure and ‘freedom’, maybe partly because it had by this time become his natural territory. He seems to me to be the one who holds this performance together - until the point, after the bass solo, when it enters its most ‘free’ section with Sonny reduced to exploring the squeaks and squeals he can draw out of his mouthpiece. While it’s not a pretty noise, there is a moment near the end where it sounds touchingly like the sounds of whales. Incidentally, at the end the opening theme returns very suddenly with pinpoint timing – probably (I suspect) because it was spliced on by the engineers after the performance itself had ground to a halt.
I hope my description does enough to tell you whether it is a track which you want to (a) investigate for yourself or (b) avoid. It would be a pity to avoid the two trio performances because they seem to me to be, in their more conventional way, much better than the title track. I quote here what I said about them in my review of the ‘Priceless Jazz’ album: ‘This CD performs a particularly valuable service by salvaging the two remaining tracks by the splendid trio of Rollins, Garrison and Jones, and they are so good that you wonder how the opportunity could have been passed up to make a whole album by the trio. "We Kiss in the Shadow" has Rollins playing with an unusual tender romanticism without losing that familiar depth and strength of tone, and " Blessing in Disguise" is an absorbing, exhilarating blues (its five-note theme sounds like an ironic reduction of the rock'n'roll tune, "Be Bop a Lula"), played at a slow walking pace and full of fascinating twists and turns. Garrison and, especially, Jones are in excellent form on both tracks, the drummer providing a rich tapestry of tone-colours and polyrhythms behind the saxophonist and Garrison contributing a good solo to "Blessing in Disguise"’[in the original review I mistakenly referred to this composition as “Count Your Blessings”!].
I’ve probably made my recommendation clear: unless you are a ‘completist’, give this album a miss, read my review of the ‘Priceless jazz’ CD and buy that in preference to this album. Unless, that is, you take the view that anything which includes the mature Elvin Jones is worth having – a view which I entirely understand.

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