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Bill Evans Trio: How My Heart Sings

C. Michael Bailey By

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The Bill Evans Trio
How My Heart Sings
OJC
1962/2013

Pianist Bill Evans' 1962 Riverside recording How My Heart Sings concludes the first wave of re-issues celebrating the 60th anniversary of Riverside Records. The previous releases include: alto saxophonist Julian Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's 1959 Things Are Getting Better, guitarist Wes Montgomery's So Much Guitar!, trumpeter Chet Baker's Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner & Loewe (OJC/Riverside, 1959/2013) and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's Mulligan Meets Monk (OJC/Riverside, 1957/2013). This series frames recordings released between 1957 and 1962, giving witness to the productivity and gravity of this period in jazz.

Bill Evans was a bit of a quandary. He was a recalcitrant junkie of the Chet Baker orbit, who still managed to retain some semblance of artistic uniqueness. Where Baker may still be heard in a fit of nostalgic seizure and appreciated for a great wasted talent who did manage a couple of "masterpieces" between shots of morpheus, Evans influenced every pianist after him and has yet to be replaced with a talent equal to his. Evans can easily be seen as a germinal force similar to that of John Coltrane: innovators who expressed at a time when the more conservative ears might have thought nothing else could be said.

Anything Evans recorded must be placed into context, or several contexts. Regarding Evans' trio work, everything revolves around the pianist's performance on June 25, 1961 at New York City's Village Vanguard, or, more broadly, the four LPs he recorded with bassist Scott LaFaro: Portrait in Jazz (Riverside, 1959), Explorations (Riverside, 1961), Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961) and Waltz for Debbie (Riverside, 1961), these latter two making up the Bill Evans: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings 1961 (Riverside, 2005/1961). Shortly after the Village Vanguard date, in July 1961, LaFaro was killed in an automobile accident, knocking the wheels off the sensitive, introspective Evans.

How My Heart Sings was Evans' second recording with a trio after LaFaro's death. The bassist was Chuck Israels, who went on to record widely with Evans. After taking several months off, Evans recorded as a quartet on Nirvana (Atlantic, 1962) with Herbie Mann and Israels followed by a duet recording with guitarist Jim Hall, Undercurrent (United Artists, 1962). Evans returned to trio recording in May 1962, putting to tape pieces that would make up Moonbeams (Riverside, 1962) and How My Heart Sings (Riverside, 1962). These recordings are historically paired like Chet (Riverside, 1959) and Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe (Riverside, 1959), creating compelling diptychs on the craft of jazz.

After the ballad-laden Moonbeams, producer Orrin Keepnews wanted a slightly more up-tempo recording that resulted in How My Heart Sings. Fifty years later, the recording remains painfully introspective, up-tempo or not. Evans was the Van Gogh of jazz: sensile and troubled, characteristics that expressed themselves in his playing his entire career. On the title tune and Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" (two takes offered here), Evans turns inward what speeding the pieces up, creating an anxious tension between the conflicting elements. Bassist Israels, making no question he would not try and emulate LaFaro, tethers Evans, perhaps more than the pianist would like, adding to the pathos of the recordings, while drummer Paul Motian continued his roll of timekeeping and accounting.

This disc title is also the title of Peter Pettinger's biography of Evans (Yale University Press, 2002). The song captures Evans' state of mind at the time of the recording, a particularly vulnerable time for a particularly vulnerable artist. While the "New" Criticism claims one should only judge the work alone, this is impossible for the music of Bill Evans. His life impacted his art and his art impacted all that came after.


Tracks: How My Heart Sings; I Should Care; In Your Own Sweet Way; Walking Up; Summertime; 34 Skidoo; Ev'rything I Love; Show-Type Tune; In Your Own Sweet Way (take 2); 34 Skidoo (take 9); Ev'rything I Love (take 2).

Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Chuck Israels: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

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