Fans of the late great pianist Bill Evans should be overjoyed with the issuance of this nicely packaged eight CD boxed set that represents sixty-five previously unreleased tracks recorded live at San Francisco’s “Keystone Korner”, September, 1980. This attractive compilation is additionally enhanced by Derk Richardson’s wonderfully written and informative liner notes, as the author elaborates on Evans’ previous accomplishments and the sad events leading to the artist’s death which occurred shortly afterwards.
The Last Waltz features Evans along with his then working rhythm section of bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera. And other than Evans’ signature renditions of standards such as the radiantly beautiful and sublime, “Emily”, the pianist performs his classic composition, “Waltz for Debby”, along with “Letter To Evan”, “Yet Ne’er Broken” (an anagram for his drug connection) and others. The musicians expand their creative juices while enjoying various levels of emotive interplay during several lengthy versions of Miles Davis’ “Nardis” yet at times, LaBarbera’s extended soloing leaves little to the imagination.
The eight CDs delineate Evans’ nine-day engagement at the “Keystone Corner” and as one would surmise there is some duplication of material throughout these recordings yet the musicians dutifully provide the nuance, finesse and firepower amid a few twists, turns and alterations of the musical scenery. Here, Evans performs with such intensity, grandeur and reverence for the material via flailing crescendos, harmonically rich themes, quick-witted invention, expressively percussive block chords and sinuous single note leads, while the sympathetic rhythm section comps and turns up the heat when called upon. Overall, The Last Waltz strikes a grand chord and resides as one of the more historically significant releases of 2000.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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