Why is pianist Bill Evans
so important to jazz? it is simple: every pianist to hear and perform after him was influenced by him. Art Tatum
and Oscar Peterson
may have been technically more brilliant and extroverted, but it took first Bud Powell
and then Evans to turn the creative tables toward the muted and introverted, thereby beginning a jazz piano cultural revolution that continues to this day. Evans had an almost painfully personal style that, like late-period Art Pepper
, bared naked his troubled soul in exquisite detail.
This never-before-released sides from Resonance Records, Live At Art D'Lugoff's Top of The Gate
, is notable for having a couple of firsts: it's the first-ever documented Evans trio recordings of "My Funny Valentine" and "Yesterdays," while "Witchcraft" is Evans' only recording of this Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh song, aside from the 1959 studio version appearing on Portrait in Jazz
It is "My Funny Valentine," however, that shines most brightly. A ballad, always fertile territory for Evans' inward thinking, it is treated with an anathema hard swing by the normally quiet and thoughtful pianist. Evans tries to fool with an impressionistic introduction that, in time, fully dissembles into a full-fledged show tune for jazz piano trio. Bassist Eddie Gomez
, perhaps Evans' greatest bass collaborator after the tragic loss of Scott LaFaro
, plays his level best, guiding Evans, while drummer Marty Morell
watches the tempo road signs.
It is Gomez that turns introspective (in a wordy fashion) on his solo, with Evans' bright accompaniment providing the bassist a spark of effervescence. This performance is nothing short of stunning and it may be quite proper that no one has emerged on piano to dethrone the last great muse of the 88 keys.