This CD is early Bill Evans, (around
the time he was just starting his own recording career for Riverside
Records). Exact dates for this session are not given but by this
time, he had already recorded with Jerry Wald's Orchestra, singer
Lucy Reed, guitarist Dick Garcia and a few others, but was not yet
known as a jazz artist in his own right. This date is in an informally-taped
session with musician Don Elliott (vibes and some 'vocal percussion'
here) at Elliott's home in Connecticut, circa 1956-57.
If you're a total Evans aficionado
or a professional pianist, you'll find a lot here to discover in
Bill's emerging harmonic thought processes, as we hear him working
out changes and hanging loose and easy with some blues progressions,
but its sometimes tough going with the not-quite-up-to-par baby
grand played here. Some keys in the lower register sound "choked"
and, and the upper octaves are just out of tune. It's not awful
throughout , it's just somewhat annoying at times, as "Someone
in Love" demonstrates. The worst of it is on "I'll Know"
from the musical "Guys and Dolls". "Thoe Swell"
is even worse, but sounds like it was perhaps taken from another
day's sessions. There is also some slight distortion now and then,
as well as traffic sounds from outside etc., but Fantasy did a nice
job cleaning much of it up, and mastering all this, despite its
flaws. Adding to the informality is a few conversational fragments
between the two men included as well. The title tune and others
like "Laura", "Stella By Starlight", "Everything
Happens To Me" , "Like Someone in Love"and Evans
own "Funkallero" are featured, all of which the pianist
would professionally record later in several versions with his various
Elliott adds spark to Bill's introspective
comping with his often bright and bluesy vibes, and its a fun ride
to hear Bill romping on the two off-the-cuff blues structures here.
Blues was not a form Evans gravitated to often, but he sounds loose
and swinging here, like he's just enjoying this jam session. We
even get a rare rendition of Sonny Rollins' tune "Airegin"
as an Evans piano solo. Some run-throughs like "I'll Take Romance"
are not played to conclusion, but if one keeps in mind from the
start that this is truly an "informal session" , there's
some fun and even a theory lesson or two to be had here. But it
needs to be emphasized that this recording is not for those with
just a casual acquaintance with the later work of this jazz piano
master, as few of these would be considered 'performances' by any
standards, and certainly by those of the relentlessly self-critical
Bill Evans of the mid-fifties. As an historical document it has
its interesting points to ponder for musicians -- and of course,
pianists will be fascinated to hear Bill as he explores on his own
time, slowly reaching for sonorities in the Scriabin-esque combining
of upper extensions and polychords after the "take" of
"Everything Happens To Me", a high point of this CD, and
maybe worth the price of admission, at least for keyboardists. The
chordal development is just incredible to follow along with as we
hear Bill in these private moments of musical experimentation. Evans'
genius was quite clear even way back then, as he occasionally offers
some clever indications of what was to come during his solo career
-- the rhythmic displacement, those close block chords, the inner
harmonic voice movement, etc..
Again, if your a devoted Evans fan,
you'll be quite taken, albeit in an almost "voyeuristic"
way, since this was just a taped-for-fun practice session between
two musical friends, and may have been work towards a project never
undertaken , but surely this home-recorded session was meant as
just that. That being said, its hard for me to recommend this to
the general jazz listener, but for collectors and true Evans adherents,
you'll be rewarded in some very different ways by this rare portrait
of the artist as a young man.