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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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BILL EVANS

Conversations with Myself

Verve 0602517036857

 

 

 

1. 'Round Midnight

2. How About You?

3. Spartacus Love Theme

4. Blue Monk

5. Stella by Starlight

6. Hey, There

7. N. Y. C.'s No Lark

8. Just You, Just Me

9. Bemsha Swing

10. A Sleepin' Bee

Bill Evans - Piano

In 1963, when this album was recorded, overdubbing was still controversial among jazz fans. Some purists held up their hands in horror at the idea of something so artificial as putting one recorded track on top of another - or, as on most of this album, amalgamating three different tracks. Pianist Bill Evans would record one track, then listen to it on headphones while layering another track on top of it - and then a third. The proof of the pudding is in the results: an album which became an immediate classic.

The recordings were made less than two years after bassist Scott La Faro had died, effectively ending one of the pioneering piano trios in jazz. So Conversations with Myself may be regarded as Bill Evans trying to create a new trio from three of his own voices. It is a conversation in that the left channel often seems to converse with the right-hand channel, while the centre channel passes comments on the dialogue. But sometimes it is not so much a conversation as a chance for Bill to add extra layers to his playing. His use of chords was always one of the distinctive qualities of his style, and this project enabled him to build up complex edifices of chords. The different voices seem to merge together or work in harmonious counterpoint with one another.

The exchanges can be witty, as in How About You?, where the implied lyric "I like New York in June" is contradicted by Bill quoting from Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, although he balances this with a later reference to Manhattan! Stella by Starlight is one of the most successful tracks, using all three channels to concurrently embellish the melody. All three versions work together rather than conversing. However, in Blue Monk - the only track using two channels instead of three - the right-hand side states the theme and then the left-hand channel interjects brief comments or responses. N. Y. C.'s No Lark (an anagram disguising a tribute to pianist Sonny Clark, who died the month before this recording was made) builds up an ominous mood with bell-like chiming. It is the only original composition on the CD - the rest being jazz standards.

Bill Evans was always a very thoughtful player, and the fascination of this album is that you can virtually hear Bill thinking as he listens to himself and works out how best to respond. The album deserved the success it aroused and is now rightly included in the Verve "Classics" series. It brought Bill Evans the first of his seven Grammy awards and was given five stars by Leonard Feather in Down Beat. A word of advice: listen to this CD with headphones or earphones, so as to distinguish the various strands.

Tony Augarde

 



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