Bill Evans: "At Town Hall"

Bill Evans, piano
Chuck Israels, bass
Arnie Wise, drums

Recorded live at Town Hall, NYC February 21, 1966

CD review by Jan Stevens, webmaster

On February 21, 1966 Bill Evans was presented in concert in New York City, performing solo, with trio and with big band. This release was called "Volume One" when originally released on LP; presumably a "Volume Two" was intended for release but never materialized. Bill and his manger and producer Helen Keane were never happy with the results of the larger Al Cohn-lead ensemble recorded that day, and that particular portion of the concert is apparently lost to history. (see Pettinger's book, pp.172-173)

All in all, I'd consider this the high point of any Bill Evans trio date in his' years as a Verve recording artist in the mid-1960s. The only 'official' release of the trio with drummer Arnold Wise, (who otherwise only appears on a few "Secret Sessions" tracks) they sound unusually upbeat, very tight as a group, and Bill is in top form here. It's also bassist Chuck Israels' last recorded appearance with the regular trio . Another good reason to buy the CD however, may just be the extended solo performance segment, dedicated to his father, who had just passed away. (After hearing the bad news, and some time spent in Florida, Bill returned and decided to do the concert, after all, despite Helen Keane's recommendation that he take some more time off.) For this medley, he plays his own compositions, "Story Line" -- a reworked "Re: Person I Knew", one of the best versions of" Turn Out the Stars" -- the very FIRST one, this arrangementis transcribed in a few Evans music books -- and the haunting and impressionistic and "Prologue" and "Epilogue" open and close the medley. It's a heartfelt and inspired performance, and often talked about among Evans fans.

The pianist's versions of "Who Can I Turn To" and "I Should Care", just to name two, are among the best -known jazz treatments of these now-standards. Pianist Herbie Hancock (a jazz legend himself) personally selected this live "I Should Care" to be part of his hand-picked Evans favorites (from the Verve catalog) for the CD "Ultimate Bill Evans" (Verve 314 557 536-2), calling it in his liner notes: "a good example of the way Bill could articulate a melody and then build variations from it".

Bill Evans virtually defined jazz piano in the sixties and beyond, and this is one of the best examples from the middle period in his career. As opposed to a number of his other Verve releases, the piano sound is superb -- for that time period, and you can hear all the interplay, the fun, and the fierce concentration of these guys beautifully recorded and nicely balanced. "Town Hall" remains one of the stronger entries in the Verve label's Bill Evans catalog. This trio swings and the whole performance is a real delight.

ŠJan Stevens 2002. All rights reserved.