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Bill Evans: Here's That Rainy Day


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I've always loved Bill Evans's solo interpretation of Here's That Rainy Day from Alone in 1968. He opens with enormous sensitivity and delivers a measured ballad reading, followed by rising intensity and swing as the tempo quickens. The master take that appears on the album never fails to thrill me. Yet despite his beauty, Evans didn't bother to hold onto it like some other songs. Perhaps he felt that the Alone version was as good as he was ever going to play it. Whatever the reason, his abandonment was a shame, considering how spectacular the song is in his hands.

In the Evans discography, there are only three known versions of Here's That Rainy Day, composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke. The songwriters published the song in 1953, and it was sung first by Dolores Gray in the Broadway musical Carnival in Flanders.

The musical's book was by Preston Sturges and the music was by Burke and Van Heusen. The plot was based on a 1934 French comedy film called La Kermesse Héroïque. The musical takes place in 1616 in Flackenburg, a small Flemish town. There, the community gets word that a Spanish duke and his army plan to spend the night in town. Fearful that his stay will be a prelude to much worse, the mayor plays dead, hoping that his death will send the duke on his way.

Instead, the duke finds he fancies the man's “widow" and courts her. Not much of a plot or a gimmick. But here's where it gets interesting. The show opened on September 8, 1953 and lasted only six performances. Nevertheless, Dolores Gray, who played the mayor's wife, won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. It remains the shortest-lived Tony-honored performance in Broadway history.

Here's Dolores Gray singing the song in 1977...

Now let's listen to the three Bill Evans versions, starting with the masterpiece I described above:

Here's the master take from Alone (Verve), recorded sometime in late September or in mid-October 1968...

Here's the alternate take of the song, which clearly is more tentative and more like a run-through than the version chosen for the album...

And here's the sole trio version with Evans, Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums, from Live at the Top of the Gate (Resonance), recorded on October 23, 1968...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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