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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BILL EVANS

Everybody Digs Bill Evans

American Jazz Classics 99008

 

 

1. Minority
2. Young and Foolish
3. Lucky To Be Me
4. Night and Day
5. Epilogue
6. Tenderly
7. Peace Piece
8. What Is There To Say?
9. Oleo
10. Epilogue
11. You and the Night and the Music
12. How Am I to Know?
13. Woody'n You (take 1)
14. Woody'n You (take 2)
15. My Heart Stood Still
16. On Green Dolphin Street

Bill Evans - Piano
Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Sam Jones - Bass (tracks 1-10)
Paul Chambers - Bass (tracks 11-16)

 

Despite the Bill Evans Trio that included Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian being widely lauded as his greatest trio, I have never thought highly of drummer Paul Motian, so I am glad to welcome this reissue of Bill Evans's December 1958 album, which used Philly Joe Jones on drums. In fact this was only Bill's second album, issued two years after his trio debut, New Jazz Conceptions, and it was recorded after Evans had been working in the famous Miles Davis Sextet. The album title may sound rather dated, with its use of "digs" to mean "appreciates", but the general enthusiasm for Bill Evans was proved by the original album cover, which contained testimonials from Miles Davis, George Shearing, Ahmad Jamal and Cannonball Adderley. This reissue adds six tracks recorded in early January 1959, with Paul Chambers replacing Sam Jones on bass. Strangely, this edition omits Leonard Bernstein's composition Some Other Time (from On the Town), which was added to the first CD reissue of the LP.

At any rate, this album provides good evidence of Bill Evans's already considerable talent. The very first track - Gigi Gryce's Minority - shows that Evans was adept at bebop styles but also that he already had a formidable technique which could achieve almost anything he wanted to do. In addition, this fastish number also proves that Bill was a swinging pianist - perhaps notably when he swaps fours with Philly Joe Jones.

Bill's treatment of Young and Foolish exemplifies what he is probably best known for: the tender, thoughtful exposition of a ballad. Actually it is Evans's thoughtfulness that strikes me throughout this album. He was seldom a grandstanding player or a show-off: indeed, I remember seeing him playing in London in the 1960s, with his head bent so low over the piano that it almost touched the keyboard. Yet he was notable for his thoughtful exploration of melodies and chords: an art in which he was superior to many other pianists. Lucky To Be Me also typifies this approach, with an unaccompanied performance (one of four such solo items on the album) which is deeply pensive.

Undoubtedly the outstanding tune on the CD is Peace Piece, a wonderfully contemplative performance based on a pattern of two pedal notes and two chords, over which Bill weaves minimal but exquisite ideas which are mesmerising in their simple beauty.

For contrast, there are plenty of up-tempo numbers driven along by the drums. For example, Night and Day opens with an explosive drum solo from Philly Joe, and Oleo is a speedy piece of bebop with forceful drumming. To his credit, Philly Joe Jones matches Bill Evans in thoughtfulness, as his solos always seem to be carefully thought out. Note, for instance, his prudent solo with brushes in You and the Night and the Music. Both the bass players fulfil their roles well, although Sam Jones is recorded rather low in the mix, taking the edge off his solos.

Even Bill Evans could falter, as you can hear in the weirdly misguided chords at the start of the first take of Woody'n You and the stumbling second take. But most of this album is an unalloyed delight.

Tony Augarde

 



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