Bill Evans: Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott's

Pierre Giroux BY

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Bill Evans: Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott's
The emergence of Bill Evans as one of the jazz world's preeminent pianists was propelled by a unmistakeable style: a pensive note striking with harmonic transpositions resulting in unique voicings. This 1968 recording marks the fifth collaboration between Resonance Records and the Bill Evans Estate to bring previously unreleased material into the public domain. This 2xLP limited edition in a gatefold sleeve was co-produced by Zev Feldman of Resonance and Jack DeJohnette and was beautifully mastered by Bernie Grundman. This is the third recording that brings together Evans with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack De Johnette.

In many ways Bill Evans was a fragile and tragic figure. The promise and prominence of his classic trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian was short lived, since not long after the release of their seminal recording Sunday At The VillageVanguard (Riverside 1961), LaFaro was killed in an auto accident. This devastated Evans and coupled with his ever present narcotic addition, bedevilled the remaining years of his life.

At the time of this recording bassist Eddie Gomez had been with Evans for a couple of years and seemed to fill the void left by LaFaro by playing with a melodic coherence favoured by Evans. He remained in the trio until 1977. Drummer Jack DeJohnette, was a relatively recent addition to the trio, and had a wonderful sense of time and played with a brashness that was not generally a feature in Evans' trios. He left shortly after this date to join Miles Davis' band.

The material was recorded by DeJohnette during the trio's one month stay at Scott's club in July 1968. It contains many of the pieces with which Bill Evans aficionados will be familiar and delivered by the full scope of affect and mannerisms in his playing. Some of these numbers date back to trio of the early 1960s and include "A Sleepin' Bee," "You're Gonna Hear From Me" and "My Man's Gone Now." In his interpretation of these standards you can pick out Evans' rhythmic figures as he reworks the expected chord sequences.

Not to be forgotten or overlooked were Evans' talent as a composer. There are three of his pieces showcased in this release including "Turn Out The Stars," "Very Early" and his best known number "Waltz For Debbie." However the interpretation of these themes can change with the teamwork within the trio and this is evident with Gomez and DeJohnette as they develop a new sense of the awareness of rhythm-section work. Take the second number for example. It jumps along at a brisker pace than the original with bassist Gomez prominent in his solo effort. On the last composition, Gomez again is forefront with a strong base line on the waltz section of the number, but then speeds up the remainder of the interpretation in a 4/4 tempo.

The closing number is the Miles Davis composition "Nardis." This was and remained a standard part of the trio's set list up to and through its final iteration with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera. In this reading, after Evans briskly states the well recognized theme there is well played bass solo from Gomez, that is followed by an Evans piano exchange with drummer DeJohnette, that shifts into a solo drum interlude, before Evans closes the number out.

Finally, if the music contained in this release was not enough, the cover art depiction of Bill Evans, by noted commercial artist David Stone Martin needs acknowledgement. Although Martin died in 1992, he prepared this lithograph in 1985 for a private collector who made it available for this release. Some AAJers will be familiar with the iconic cover art done by Martin for Verve/Clef/Norgran releases of the 1940s and 1950s which made them treasures of any record collection. Perhaps it will do the same for this project.

Track Listing

Sleepin' Bee; You're Gonna Hear From Me (Version 1); Yesterdays; Turn Out the Stars; My Man's Gone Now; Emily (Version 1); Spring is Here; Embraceable You; For Heaven’s Sake; Someday My Prince Will Come; Quiet Now; 'Round Midnight; Stella by Starlight; Alfie; You're Gonna Hear From Me (Version 2); Very Early; Emily (Version 2); Waltz for Debby; Autumn Leaves; Nardis.


Bill Evans: piano; Eddie Gomez: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

Album information

Title: Live at Ronnie Scott's | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Resonance Records

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