At first it's hard to tell if Piano Player is a quickie compilation or a never-issued recording. But it's a bit of both. It's a hodgepodge, really, consisting of eight never-before released songs enhanced by the Miles Davis quartet's 1958 performance of "My Funny Valentine" and two of five tracks from vibraphonist Dave Pike's excellent 1962 quartet record Pike's Peak (which, like Herbie Mann's Nirvana, also featuring Evans, should be released in its entirety).
What makes Piano Player worthwhile and valuable, though, is the never-before released Evans moments. Most of this recently-discovered music hasn't even been catalogued in any of the discographies yet. First, there's an alternate take of George Russell's firey 1957 classic, "All About Rosie," featuring Bill Evans in a surprisingly heated solo. Then there's a 1971 trio outtake from The Bill Evans Album.
Best of all, Piano Player includes six superb selections from November 1971 featuring Evans on both acoustic and electric piano and Eddie Gomez on upright and electric bass. These instructive and intriguing pieces are beautiful tone poems, with two introspective masters who knew each other well (hear their appealing chemistry in a trio on the recently issued, previously unavailable Half Moon Bay.
Moments that are especially rewarding include Eddie Gomez's deft and subtle electric bass work on "Morning Glory," the way Evans builds a rhythm section as he alternates between electric and acoustic piano as he quite literally deconstructs John Lewis's "Django," the lively "Comrade Conrad" and Eddie Gomez's fleet, rhythmic interdependence on "T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)" and the original two-way communication in the sprite waltz of "Gone With The Wind."
As a whole, Piano Player jumps from time periods and groupings more erratically than a typical Bill Evans listener would expect or appreciate. But eight of these songs offer required - and rewarding listening for fans of the pianist. The remaining three selections are not readily available elsewhere either. Therefore, for now, Piano Player makes for essential Bill Evans listening.
Songs:All About Rosie (3rd Section); My Funny Valentine; Vierd Blues; Besame Mucho; Morning Glory; Django; Waltz for Debby; T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune); Comrade Conrad; Gone With The Wind; Fun Ride.
Players:Bill Evans (piano) with the George Russell Orchestra, the Miles Davis Quartet, the Dave Pike Quartet, Eddie Gomez (acoustic and electric bass) and in a trio with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Marty Morell (drums).