CD Review: "Bill Evans: Piano Player"



Sony/Columbia Legacy Recordings (CD-65361)

featuring : Miles Davis Quintet (with Bill Evans,Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb)
Dave Pike (Vibes) with Bill Evans, Herbie Lewis, bass, Walter Perkins, drums
George Russell Orchestra
Bill Evans with Eddie Gomez
Bill Evans with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell

A review by Jan Stevens

This is one of SONY/Columbia Legacy releases that combines material on that label from a few sources: selections recorded under Bill's name in his short association with Columbia, tracks from a Dave Pike (vibes) album, one from Miles Davis' "Live at The Plaza" and an alternate "All About Rosie" from an early George Russell Orchestra setting.

There is much material here that's very strong, but Evans aficiandos may debate, as they have before, regarding the inclusion of some of the works-in-progress duo tracks with Eddie Gomez. According to the bassist's touching essay in the liner notes, these tracks were "recorded rehearsals" from November 1970 and were done five months before the trio of that time -- with drummer Marty Morell -- would record all Evans-penned compositions for what becamethe grammy-winning
"The Bill Evans Album" in 1971 on Columbia (a previously unreleased "Fun Ride" from those dates is included here, and is a fun treat; Bill providing some humorous codas!).

We hear John Lewis' standard"Django" in an extended outing with Evans and Gomez not yet quite settled in, as they work through various tempos, but Bill's lightning -fast chops are evident throughout. It's a bit laborious. for sure. Gomez is on electric bass (!) on "Morning Glory", and by his own admission, it was probably a weak experiment, especially considering his amazing prowess on the acoustic. The other tunes, including "Comrade Conrad", "Waltz for Debby" and "T.T.T" -- all of which would appear on the upcoming Columbia release -- show Bill and Eddie in lively interplay, just rtehearsing, with Evans on the Rhodes here and there, and though just working through arrangements, they're nonetheless fair, yet experimental representations of this period in their careers.

That being said, there is still interesting playing here to satisfy even non-hardcore Evans fans. A highlight is the Miles Davis "My Funny Valentine" (with just Miles and the rhythm section, sans Coltrane and Cannonball), taken from the "Jazz at the Plaza" performance in 1958, and hithertofore unreleased. Although a less than satisfactory recording quality gets in the way -- almost a "fake" sounding stereo spread is evident -- we get to hear 'live' Bill Evans with Miles in a intriguing intro to this well-worn standard; a staple in the Davis repertoire for years to come.

Also quite exciting is this alternate "All About Rosie" solo from George Russell's compositional suite done at a Brandeis University concert in the late 50s, which is no less stunning than the one Evans fans are quite familiar with.

Most of these other tracks are worthwhile --and for Evans completists, and perhaps jazz historians, all the more interesting.