Bill Evans: Consecration: The Final Recordings Part 2 [Box Set] (2002)
“ Light years beyond what any pianist since has been able to conceive, let alone execute. ”
I had assumed that these recordings fit into the category of "he plays well under the circumstances." Forget the qualifiers. Listening to this set and the previously released The Last Waltz is a bit like sharing the experience of the wild-eyed poet who has returned from feasting on the milk of paradise in Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." After tasting such nectar, nothing henceforward can satisfy the palette. So if the two sets (16 discs) comprising Evans' last stand seem extravagant in quantity and price, consider the possibility that they represent the musical equivalent of Keats' Grecian Urn, offering "all ye know and need to know."
Not that the pianist's playing over eight nights is uniformly sublime. The first couple of discs might sound, to a trained Evans observer, just a trifle more tentative whereas the last two bear a few faint traces of fatigue and auto-pilot. So if you have an opportunity to choose, go with discs 3 and 4 of either set. In particular, I especially recommend disc 3 as evidence of Evans at the zenith of his creative powers, not to mention piano prowess. He was late in arriving, so another headliner pianist, Denny Zeitlin, temporarily filled in for him. Knowing, first, that the bar had already been set high and second, that Zeitlin was still hanging around in the audience, Evans turns in an extraordinary set. On "Your Story" the dynamics positively "swell" from ppp to fff and back, yet the piano sound remains full-bodied at every volume level. On "Someday My Prince Will Come," the headliner launches perfectly-executed, not-stop pyrotechnical phrases at breathtaking speed. (Snow White has never sounded this animated, dramatic and alive!)
How to explain this extraordinary demonstration by a human being who would virtually self- destruct the following week? Little has been said about what a perfect mechanical specimen Bill Evans was, practically "designed" for one purpose: to the play the piano. His exceptionally thick and heavy fingers, his hand position, his arm placementnone of these deserted him even when the internal organs were failing him. The combination of muscle memory and a mind capable of focusing on nothing beyond the musical instant managed to keep death at bay through the vitality of art.
The music herein is light years beyond what any pianist since has been able to conceive, let alone execute. The only "faults" that might be weighed against any part of it are, first, that the creator occasionally has a tendency to get ahead of himself, the force of his passion and complexity of his ideas simply providing more than the moment can bear. All the more remarkable that the form holds, after bending sufficiently to create dramatic tensions that underscore the magnitude of the artist's grandiose design and achievement. Second, Evans invites some disruption of continuity and let-up of dramatic urgency whenever he defers to solos by Johnson or LaBarbera. But these moments, too, are understandable respites that allow the pianist to gather his strength for yet another glorious burst of lyric energy.
Consecration captures all of the first sets of the stand that would prove to be Bill Evans' valedictory, whereas Last Waltz is composed of the second sets. But lest that encourage a choice between the two collections, be aware that Bill comes charging out of the gate like a rampaging bull, or perhaps more aptly, a full-grown Keats.
Track Listing: Track Listings Disc: 1 1. Re: Person I Knew 2. Tiffany 3. My Foolish Heart 4. Song From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) 5. Knit for Mary F. 6. Days of Wine and Roses 7. Your Story 8. Two Lonely People 9. My Romance Disc: 2 1. Tiffany 2. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 3. Like Someone in Love 4. Letter to Evan 5. Gary's Theme 6. Days of Wine and Roses 7. I Do It for Your Love 8. My Romance Disc: 3 1. Re: Person I Knew 2. Tiffany 3. Knit for Mary F. 4. Like Someone in Love 5. Your Story 6. Someday My Prince Will Come 7. I Do It for Your Love 8. My Romance Disc: 4 1. Re: Person I Knew 2. Tiffany 3. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 4. Song From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) 5. Your Story 6. Like Someone in Love 7. Knit for Mary F. 8. Two Lonely People 9. My Romance Disc: 5 1. Up With the Lark 2. Mornin' Glory 3. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 4. Like Someone in Love 5. Turn Out the Stars 6. Your Story 7. Emily 8. I Do It for Your Love 9. My Romance Disc: 6 1. Re: Person I Knew 2. Tiffany 3. Knit for Mary F. 4. My Foolish Heart 5. Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) 6. Emily 7. Laurie 8. You and the Night and the Music Disc: 7 1. Re: Person I Knew 2. Laurie 3. Bill's Hit Tune 4. Two Lonely People 5. Song From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) 6. My Foolish Heart 7. Days of Wine and Roses 8. But Beautiful Disc: 8 1. Emily 2. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 3. Like Someone in Love 4. Your Story 5. Days of Wine and Roses 6. Knit for Mary F. 7. Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) 8. I Do It for Your Love 9. My Romance
Personnel: Bill Evans, piano; Marc Johnson, bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums