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Bill Evans: Hey Bill, It's Paul From Abbey Road

Mike Jurkovic BY

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Bill Evans: Hey Bill, It's Paul From Abbey Road
Hot after the release of Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott's (2020), Resonance Records and the Estate of Bill Evans announced an extraordinary find, now in the final stages of being prepped as a two-disc set entitled Hey Bill, It's Paul from Abbey Road.

Recorded off the cuff as a sort of mic-set-up time before the session started, McCartney, a natural instrumentalist in the middle of the four who were recording the defiant White Album, two releases are set to coincide with each man's upcoming birthday. The first, in all digital formats, will be in June 2021 for Paul McCartney and on 180 gram, Apple Green/Apple Red vinyl in August to celebrate Bill Evans.

"Hey Bill, It's Paul from Abbey Road sounds like July '68 and sure as God-damned hell is," lead detective and Resonance Records chief curator Zev Feldman said. "About a week into Bill, Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette's month-long sojourn at swinging London's hot and hip Ronnie Scott's, a call came to Bill's hotel room: "'Hey Bill, it's Paul from Abbey Road. Care for a jam?'" The three were gob-smacked! And though Gomez and DeJohnette had plans that wouldn't get either of them to Studio Two til the middle or tail end of the session time, the tapes, gratefully, were rolling.

Discovered by Abbey Road archivists Nigel Nabob and Pines McSweeney, the astounded, intrepid discoverers brought the unmarked, undocumented tapes to the immediate attention of producer, Giles Martin (George Martin's son for the uninitiated) and a slew of associates who were prepping final mixes for the 2022, fortieth anniversary archival release of McCartney's third solo album, 1982's Tug of War. "When Bill walked in he moved instinctively to the 1905 Steinway as McCartney began testing the mics around Ringo Starr's drum set," says Feldman. 'Yesterdays' radiated from the pianist fingers, and the Beatle, not one who is easily hushed, tapped his high hat and snare in sheer, syncopated reverence. When Bill moved without hesitancy into 'Yesterday' the future knight put down his sticks and quite possibly began imagining untold melodies that resonate to this day.

DeJohnette, as he so conversationally told the provenance of Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott's, describes how he settled back in the control room couch and just listened. "You couldn't help not too. The immediate camaraderie between the two was a true example of human magic."

McCartney's treasured Hofner offers the first mournful notes of "Eleanor Rigby" and the duo serenade the un-remembered and un-remarkable with an ease and honor that DeJohnette, to this day, says he's never quite experienced before. "It's an astounding yet understated conversation between two men of different worlds meeting each other for the first time." Feldman then adds: "The way Bill follows Paul's acoustic guitar lead on George Harrison's 'Within You, Without You' and then Paul follows Bill along the tune's hidden harmonics is just incredible to hear!"

But when first contacted, McCartney, ever the Liverpudlian, spontaneously combusted. "Who rolled the tapes on that one!!?! I thought I was just testin' mic placement." So he sort of, kind of, made up his own strenuous quarantine etiquette and came down from his Scottish farm to personally oversee the production. "I owed it to Bill," he said. "He came in and boom-it was 'Yesterdays/Yesterday' then 'Eleanor Rigby.' A jam we called 'The Moon's Restless Power' is very special for me. The music moves like Stravinsky man. I must be going daft man! I just can't believe I've forgotten all this!"

A brief parallel interjection of "Fixin' A Hole" sounds tempered and unsure. "Bill plays like he's enamored of the tune but not necessarily convinced of its characteristics," Feldman detects. DeJohnette, after a two minute romp through "That's Alright Mama," then joins the session in earnest. "I took to Ringo's toms and worked up an inverted rock riff and 'Tomato Crankhead' just happened." Here is Evans' pounding obstinato, McCartney hyper driving and DeJohnette giving Led Zeppelin's John Bohnam a run for his pounds sterling. "I guess they must have had to switch tapes or take tea or something," McCartney suggests, as the recording ends after nine minutes. "But we didn't want to stop."

"Eddie then came with his bass," DeJohnette dreamily continues, "and Paul sat beside Bill, and it took me a while to realize we were taking 'Lady Madonna' to places it had never been before. It had a velvet innocence you rarely achieve with an out 'n out rocker," McCartney enthused, steadfastly seconding the emotion. A brief snippet of "Bluebird" turns to haltingly revealing "Summertime," as the Beatle echoes Gomez on his electric bass. A seventeen minute, ragged but right "Someday My Prince Will Come" closed the session, but revealed that we all still have a great deal to learn from history.

Hey Bill, It's Paul from Abbey Road marks a unique pairing between Resonance Records, the two surviving Beatles (Starr hasn't stopped listening to the tapes since he received them in late January of this year), the estates of John Lennon, George Harrison and, of course, Bill Evans. "The decision to release these things on Resonance was a natural one," McCartney says. "Bill belonged to jazz and this set definitely belongs to Bill."

Track Listing

Yesterdays; Yesterday; Eleanor Rigby; Within You, Without You; The Mon's Restless Power; That's Alright Mama; Tomato Crankhead; Bluebird; Summertime; Someday My Prince Will Come.

Personnel

Bill Evans: piano; Paul McCartney: bass, electric; Eddie Gomez: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

Album information

Title: Hey Bill, It's Paul From Abbey Road | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: April First Records

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