Somewhere between the huge box sets of Bill Evans’ work on Verve, Riverside, Fantasy and his final works (and almost final live dates) lie some true gems. Romantics fall easily for the gritty sounds of Evans accompanying singer Tony Bennett from 1975 and his two Paris concerts from 1979, both released on Blue Note, which are indeed triumphs of his spirit. I’d put my vote in for this session released originally in 1981, a year after Evans’ passing.
At the time of this date, Evans was working with drummer Eliot Zigmund and bassist Eddie Gomez. Sure, your favorite bassist with Evans might be Scott Lafaro or Marc Johnson—and someone else might favor Paul Motian or Joe LaBarbera at the kit—but on this particular date in August 1977 producers Tommy Lipuma and Helen Keane captured the existing Evans trio’s magic.
For connoisseurs, this reissue includes three bonus tracks left off the original recording. His take on Miles Davis’ “Freddie Freeloader,” the only track where he didn’t occupy the piano seat on the Kind Of Blue session, swings and is an upbeat blues... two styles critics have claimed that Evans was incapable of. He even pursues a solo on the Fender Rhodes electric piano here (and you newbies thought Uri Caine invented the damn thing). Also included are “Without A Song” and and a brimming version of Cole Porter’s “All Of You.”
But what is it about Bill Evans? Maybe it is that he can play a waltz like “B Minor Waltz” with total patience and lack of bravado. Maybe his tragic life reveals itself in Jimmy Rowles’ tune “The Peacocks,” as he can convey the sensitivity of his touch on the keyboards like no other pianist could. But his music is not about melancholy. Evans music doesn’t say “pity me, I’m tragic.” It soars, expressing emotion, depth, and humanity.
When he covers the “Theme From M*A*S*H,” which is subtitled “Suicide Is Painless,” you understand that to Evans, life was as heavy as a mountain, but death as light as a feather.
Personnel: Bill Evans - Piano; Eddie Gomez - Bass; Eliot Zigmund - Drums.