Bill Evans/Don Elliott: Tenderly (1957)
It is commonplace today for a reissued CD to feature a handful of alternate takes culled from the master tapes of the original session. Frequently filled with false starts, clumsy solos, and interjections from the control room, these tracks provide insight into the recording process and valuable knowledge about the musician's craft.
Tenderly is, for all intents and purposes, an entire album of unpolished takes that offer a glimpse into the processes of a soon-to-be a jazz legend (Evans) and a relative unknown (Elliott) The two work through a variety of tunes, perhaps for a planned recording session that never materialized. These recordings were never intended for release, nor were they technically conceived as a performance, but nevertheless the session is a fascinating document of two artists at work. Recorded at Elliott's home studio in Connecticut, one can hear the occasional car and telephone in the background; however, the lack of polish only adds to the ragged charm. Evans, on the brink of stardom, is clearly finding new ways to approach melodies, displaying a more forceful, percussive attack than what Miles would later call "sparkling water." He explores new scales and arpeggios, sometimes getting far off the path and occasionally faltering, but still demonstrating the seductive edge that he took to the bank a few years later with his classic trio. Elliott occasionally interjects with vibes solos or vocal percussion in the background mainly to give Evans something to play against, but just as often simply lets Evans cut loose.
What really makes this album unique is being able to listen in on the discussions that ensue between the two; at the beginning of "Tenderly," for instance, Evans tells Elliott to tell him when the tape is rolling; Elliott responds by asking him to take the tune at a slower tempo. During most songs you can hear the two offering encouragement when something comes off well and suggestions when something doesn't. The most humorous moment comes at the end of "Everything Happens To Me"; after a gorgeous, somber run through of the tune (truly one of the highlights), Evans asks Elliott if he wants to go watch some TV. Sometimes even those who traffic in intellectual pursuits need to indulge in a little mindless entertainment.
Track Listing: Tenderly, I'll Take Romance, Laura, Blues #4, I'll Know, Like Someone In Love, Love Letters, Thou Swell, Airegin, Everything Happens To Me, Blues #2, Stella By Starlight, Funkallero.
Personnel: Bill Evans, piano; Don Elliott, vibes, percussion.