Only occasionally do classy looking limited-edition box sets prove to be a triumph of style and
substance. Too often they are undermined by cheapskate packaging, over elaborate design, poorly written and researched booklets, inadequate session details or, most egregiously, bizarre (in a bad way) track selections. So it is a more than pleasant surprise when something comes along which succeeds, and succeeds magnificently, on all those fronts. Such an item is Concord Records' Craft imprint's Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans: A Career Retrospective (19561980)
The 5-CD set comes in a seriously heavyweight, hard bound, velour wrapped, 12" x 10" portfolio style book with a foil-stamped cover. Inside are the discs and a stitched-in 48-page book. There are some great photographs, but the main event is an essay by the Chicago-based writer and Bill Evans
connoisseur Neil Tesser. That is followed by complete session details. The whole shebang was produced Nick Phillips (check the YouTube clip below). The music itself has been newly remastered by Paul Blakemore, and immaculately so: the audio quality is off-the-scale superb.
The first four discstotal playing time just under five hourscherry pick some of the greatest work Evans released on Riverside, Milestone, Verve, Warner Bros., Fantasy, Elektra/Musician, The Jazz Alliance, United Artists and Nova Discs. Discs One and Two (Trialogues Vol. 1
and Vol. 2
) cover his trio recordings from 1956 to 1980. Disc Three (Monologues
) surveys his solo recordings from 1958 to 1980. Disc Four (Dialogues & Confluences
) takes in some of his co-headlining and sideperson work from 1962 to 1979. It is here that the only significant omission occurs: there is nothing from Miles Davis
' Kind Of Blue
(Columbia, 1959). Licensing difficulties, presumably.
Disc Five is the icing on the cake. It contains a recently discovered, previously unreleased, live recording of an hour-long performance Evans gave at the long since defunct Oil Can Harry's, Vancouver in June 1975, with bassist Eddie Gomez
and drummer Eliot Zigmund
. The recording appears to have been broadcast once on local radio and then put away in the station's tape archive. The performance contains no previously unrecorded material but most of it was in 1975 quite recently arrived in the set list. Evans had first recorded the opener, Earl Zindars' "Sareen Jurer," in 1974; his own "Sugar Plum," "The Two Lonely People" and "T.T.T." in 1971; and Jerome Kern's "Up With The Lark" in 1972. The other four tunes were familiar Evans fare: Denny Zeitlin's "Quiet Now," Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is The Ocean," Mercer Ellington's "Blue Serge" and, at almost eleven minutes the longest track, Miles Davis' "Nardis," the closer. The group is in terrific form and the sound quality is excellent (take a bow audio restorers Jamie Howarth, John Chester and the aforementioned Paul Blakemore). The performance is also being released on two 180-gram vinyl LPs as On A Friday Evening
Listening to the complete box set, one is reminded that Evans reached his peak of perfection, in a trio format anyway, between 1959 and 1961 with bassist Scott LaFaro
and drummer Paul Motian
. But that peak was so lofty that even Evans' lower slopes are heavenlyand this well compiled collection contains no lower slopes, only peaks and upper slopes.
CD1: Trialogues, Vol. 1: Five: Woody’N You; Young And Foolish: Autumn Leaves; How Deep
Is The Ocean; Sweet And Lovely; Blue In Green; How My Heart Sings; Re: Person I Knew; My
Foolish Heart; Waltz For Debby; Gloria’s Step; My Man’s Gone Now; Swedish Pastry. CD2:
Trialogues, Vol. 2: Israel; The Peacocks; I Believe In You; Santa Claus Is Coming To Town; I
Will Say Goodbye; Turn Out The Stars; Walkin’ Up; Very Early; Minha (All Mine); My
Romance: Days Of Wine And Roses; The Touch Of Your Lips; Someday My Prince Will Come.
CD3: Monologues: Peace Piece; Danny Boy; Make Someone Happy; A Time For Love; Waltz
For Debby: The Bad And The Beautiful; N.Y.C.’s No Lark; Emily: Remembering The Rain; I
Loves You Porgy; Letter To Evan; Nardis. CD4: Dialogues & Confluences: My Funny Valentine;
A Face Without A Name; The Touch Of Your Lips; I Love You; Up With The Lark; Funkallero;
Who Cares?; Body And Soul; You And The Night And The Music; Time Remembered; Night
And Day; A Child Is Born; Peri’s Scope. CD5: Epilogue: Sareen Jurer; Sugar Plum; The Two
Lonely People; T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune); Quiet Now; Up With The Lark; How Deep Is The
Ocean; Blue Serge; Nardis.
Jim Hall: guitar; Eliot Zigmund: drums; Tony Bennett: vocal; Marian McPartland; piano; Stan
Getz: tenor saxophone; Cannonball Adderley: alto saxophone; Percy Heath: bass; Connie Kay:
drums; Freddie Hubbard: trumpet; Zoot Sims: tenor saxophone; Ron Carter: bass; Lee Konitz:
alto saxophone; Warne Marsh: tenor saxophone; Harold Land: tenor saxophone; Kenny
Burrell: guitar; Ray Brown: bass; Tom Harrell: trumpet; Larry Schneider: tenor saxophone.