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Album Review

Bill Evans: Morning Glory

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Bill Evans: Morning Glory
1973 was a time of political volatility and unrest. Argentina's former President Juan Peron was returning to the country after many years in exile. The controversy brought emotions to the surface and created a dangerous environment. Just what three jazz cats didn't need to hear as they made their way to Buenos Aires for a concert. There is an unwritten code of understanding, however, that musicians and athletes are to walk freely. They are artists after all, often considered above the common bourgeois.

Pianist Bill Evans along with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell landed in Buenos Aires with some trepidation, no doubt. They were protected from harm's way and escorted to the Teatro Gran Rex to perform. Oddly the concert was at ten o'clock in the morning due to the extraordinary circumstances in which the country was engulfed.

The trio opened with "Re: Person I Knew." The Evans original was first recorded on his album Moon Beams (Riverside, 1962) and later became the name of a live album, Re: Person I Knew (Fantasy, 1981). Here it served as a chance for each of them to play, get their collective footing, and relax into a comfort zone. As it turned out, any hostility going on was not brought into the concert hall. The crowd was most appreciative and perhaps eager for a temporary escape. "Emily," a tune written for the motion picture The Americanization of Emily (British MGM, 1962) followed wistfully, charming and delighting a most receptive audience. Imagination might see Emily sliding across the floor before Gomez raised the bar with a meaty bass solo. Evans cued into the kicked-up tempo as the trio was now highly engaged in the moment. The classic "Who Can I Turn To?" was reimagined as rousing applause turned to silence to take in Evan's sentimental and soft opening refrain. Gomez and Morell started to pull and punctuate the tune into a more spirited groove, in which both Evans and the crown invested.

It was time for Evans to securely grab the reins. "The Two Lonely People" has become a jazz standard, recorded many times, first appearing on The Bill Evans Album (Columbia, 1971). Here Evans stretches his ample jazz skills, moving in many directions with sumptuous note selections. Gomez and Morell comping well, with Gomez turning a bowed comp into a short duet with Evans. The most handsome rendition is closed by Evans with alternately strong and gentle lines. The enthusiastic crowd got louder as every song ended, but also were completely silent as the music was played. There was a beautiful silence as Evans touched the opening chords to "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life," from the studio album From Left To Right (MGM, 1971). The progressions washed in like a warm summer breeze as the trio embraced the groove and straddled its natural beat. A stunning turn on the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart tune "My Romance" rolled into over nine minutes of bliss. A song that Evans had made his own over the years, recording it on both studio and live albums, was first recorded by Evans on his debut album, New Jazz Conceptions (Riverside, 1957). This time Evans left a lot of space for Gomez and Morell by walking off stage for several minutes. Morell in particular taking advantage of the opportunity for some extensive and feverish drumming.

Evans clearly had a well thought game plan as he chose songs from many of his records and sequenced them for maximum flow. The title track of this live recording, "Mornin'Glory," was introduced as lyrical poetry with the trio shining together in every moment. They continued as one, save for a melodic solo from Gomez, on "Up With The Lark." They moved gently, yet swiftly into the song that soon became a favorite of Evans for live performances. It was debuted earlier in the year in Tokyo and released the following year as The Tokyo Concert (Fantasy, 1974). The complexities of "T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)" then stopped at every floor of the musical elevator. The dynamic Evans' composition was, and always is, an experiment in time and creativity. The trio dug into the tune from The Bill Evans Album with abandon. A beautiful and well received surprise for the South American crowd was a sincere take on "Esta tarde Vi Llover (This Afternoon I Heard The Rain)." The tune was played with such heart by Evans, with the strength of Gomez, and Morrell's brushwork significant, as they had been throughout the sparkling show. With many in tears, the crowd rose to loud applause as the trio left the stage. It continued until Evans began "Beautiful Love," from the album Explorations (Riverside, 1961). The thirteen minute encore was driven in a multitude of directions, but they all led to the heart and soul of an audience seeking refuge from the storm.

Now with an even deeper appreciation the crowd was boisterous to a frenzy. Even more so when Evans, Gomez, and Morell once again took the stage. "Waltz For Debby," perhaps his most well- known composition, was played with enthusiasm. Evans raced across the keys elevated by the jamming and popping grooves supplied by Gomez and Morell. Evans then went back to 1957 from his first record, New Jazz Conceptions, to wrap it up with gusto for this most deserving audience. Another deafening explosion of applause followed, the trio came back on stage. Perhaps just for a bow this time. But their disbelief became reality when once again Evans sat down on his bench. The trio left the crowd with the endearing "My Foolish Heart." From the record Waltz For Debby (Riverside, 1962), which not surprisingly also featured a second take of "Waltz For Debby," this third, and yes final, encore is significant in that the trio bared their hearts and souls to an audience that had done the same for them.

To be clear, the robust energy and sound from the crowd was always in between songs. You could hear a pin drop while the masters are at work. Evans was indeed in all his glory that historic morning. Gomez would seem to make a solid connection with all the drummers (and there have been many) that he has shared a rhythm section with. Here he was often set free to solo or further engage in the melody. Morell wisely followed the path and rose to the occasion when his number was called. Particularly effective was his brushwork. There are several Bill Evans live albums to enjoy. This two CD effort, whether in spite of or because of the circumstances, has a feel to it that is on to its own. A moment in time that could never be duplicated. That said, Evans returned to Buenos Aires six years later with a different trio. That concert is to be released simultaneously with Morning Glory under the name Inner Spirit (Resonance Records, 2022).

Track Listing

Re: Person I Knew; Emily; Who Can I Turn To?; The Two Lonely People; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life; My Romance; Mornin' Glory; Up With The Lark; T.T.T.(Twelve Tone Tune); Esta Tarde Vi Llover; Beautiful Love; Waltz For Debby; My Foolish Heart.

Personnel

Bill Evans: piano; Eddie Gomez: bass; Marty Morell: drums.

Album information

Title: Morning Glory | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Resonance Records

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