This Keepnews Collection remaster/reissue of a 1958 recording is welcome if only as a reminder of Bill Evans' trio playing before the period of the celebrated Village Vanguard Sessions (Riverside, 1961). Instead of near-equal interaction by all three trio members, a supportive team of drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Sam Jones provides a non- intrusive backdrop for the featured performer, whose inventions are cast into bolder relief than ever. The silent spaces in the ballads are stark, inviting the listener to supply the missing thought or feeling evoked by the pianist's pure conceptions; the accompaniment on the up-tempo tunes is a non-obtrusive temporal flow, leaving the floor wide open to the graceful moves of the featured performer.
Evans is as much choreographer as principal player on the date, using one of the choruses of "Night and Day" to showcase in succession unaccompanied drums, then bass, and finally piano. And when it's his turn, the pianist executes one of those right-handed "discrete portamentos" unique to his pianistic skills, connecting the lower and upper registers in a single broad sweep yet fingering each rapidly played note with uniform clarity and optimal richness.
"Peace Piece," one of the most popular recordings of Evans' career, is an adventure in sheer minimalism, as daring as it is exquisite. Not yet a major "star" among the field of post-Powell pianists, Evans nevertheless plays less like the newest challenger than a secure and commanding artist with nothing to prove. Even Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," which follows, is not taken at customary flag-waving speed. The pianist, moreover, appears to "cue" the entrances of Philly Joe, discouraging the drummer from ramping up the tune into a conventional bebop burner.
The more straight-ahead, swinging player is in evidence on Gigi Gryce's "Minority," but even here the pianist exercises restraint, placing as much emphasis on the dynamic contouring of his melodic lines and on figures played in thirds or major sevenths as on single-note "blowing" piano. As a result, the crystalline poignancy of the ballads that follow is less a change in mood than the continuation of a unified tone poem.
With its varied tempos, rhythms and programming, Everybody Digs Bill Evans sustains interest without allowing the listener for a moment to mistake the singular, inimitable voice of the leader. It's not hard to understand why many Evans followers, "casual" and otherwise, list it as their favorite of the pianist's recordings. It's doubtful there's a more introspective, meditative trio set on record, yet the pianist shows he can dance as well.
Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Sam Jones: bass; Philly Joe Jones: drums.