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Bill Evans: Live in 1972 and '73


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As the early 1970s unfolded, rock became a viable album and entertainment business. National record chains sprang up, rock bands filled arenas and FM radio was ruled by young DJs spinning entire sides of new rock releases. A shadow began to fall over acoustic jazz as producers, promoters, marketers, publicists and others were let go or shifted to the rock and jazz fusion sides of major labels. Pianist Bill Evans, who throughout the 1960s looked like an accountant or advertising executive, had a midlife crisis and began to let his hair grow.

Evans's approach on the piano also changed. By 1973, he was well into what I have referred to as his “percussive poet" phase—featuring a more robust, determined feel with pronounced chord and finger strikes and an increasingly agitated, almost rushed feel. During his earlier “swinging romantic” period of the '60s, Evans tended to listen most intently to his bassists for inspiration. By the early '70s, Evans was paying closer attention to the aesthetics of his drummers, especially the cymbals and brushes, and how he wanted both to frame his sound.

Here are two newly posted videos from Evans's early long-hair period:

Here's Bill Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell performing in São Paulo, Brazil. The video says it's 1970, but I seriously doubt the date. When the trio was in Helsinki, Finland, in 1970, they looked very different. Evans's hair was only beginning to grow long but not nearly down to his shoulders, the way it is in the São Paulo video. In addition, Marty has short hair and no mustache in Finland and Eddie hadn't yet grown his beard. I'm guessing the Brazil clip took place in 1973, when the trio toured in South America...

Here's the Bill Evans Trio at the March 1972 Grammy Awards. Andy Williams also announces that Evans was the winner of a Grammy for The Bill Evans Album on Columbia, released in September 1971. Evans actually won two that evening—for best jazz performance by a soloist and best jazz performance by a group. Months after his Grammy appearance, Evans would be released from Columbia along with Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett and Charles Mingus as the label put nearly all its chips on rock and jazz fusion...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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