Bill Evans

Pianist Evans brought a new level of beauty into bop and standards based jazz. He drew some harmonic influence from impressionist composers, but to overemphasize that is to fall into the trap of those who say his playing was overly European and not jazzy enough. (Then again, those people are politicians, not really music lovers.) The record shows that Evans was absolutely a lifetime-committed jazzer who became a major influence on other key players. He excelled at melodic embellishment and variation, small group interplay, rhythmic twists, and not least, expanding the emotional reaches of songs through chord voicings. The latter is one of the hardest things to make somebody understand or appreciate; one can always “explain” the cleverness of a melody or an improvised solo line, but a chord (sequence) by itself either stirs the listener or not.

Evans is known for his sensitive keyboard touch, not something all of his contemporaries shared. It’s part of an awesome technique that pokes its head out in other ways, from quick-scramble lines to rhythmic suspensions to harmonized, two-hand phrases. It’s easy to think of Evans as “that guy with all the soft, beautiful chords”, yet listen to the interplay on some of these albums. Evans gets as dynamically wrapped up with his bandmates as any player could be, and the chords are just one part of that activity. I think Evans thrived in the trio format because it allowed him to command different facets and also interact within a group.

New Jazz Conceptions
Sept. 1956 / Riverside

More like New Jazz Potential, or Hints of Conceptions to Come. There’s the scent of something new in Evans’ voicings, melodic arcs, and his way of spreading out a tune like a map. Backed by bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Paul Motian (unusually forceful at this stage), Evans tackles a bop-centric tunestack, including “Conception”, Porter’s “I Love You”, and his signature “Five”. “Easy Living” is taken at a reflective pace, minus the lush expanse of Bill’s later voicings, but with an evocative signoff. Both “Five” and “Displacement” get along on small rhythmic twists. Unaccompanied, Bill plays a teaser chorus of “Waltz for Debby”, a somewhat overzealous “I Got It Bad”, and “My Romance” is taken as a quick two-minute solo (slam your cocktail). Kotick’s half-time plodding and Evans’ reticence weigh down the blues “No Cover, No Minimum”, though the alternate take is brighter in spots.

New Jazz Conceptions doesn’t match the magic of Evans’ later trio records, though that’s a relative and retrospective judgment. Motian fires away on sticks rather than brushes and some of Evans’ subtleties get lost in the rush. Nevertheless, there is something special in his piano work, bubbling just under a semi-conventional surface, awaiting its proper setting.

Everybody Digs Bill Evans
Dec. 1958 / Riverside

Evans was modest enough to not only blush at the company-dictated title, but to have waited a couple years before waxing Album #2. Of course, there was the fruitful distraction of being in Miles Davis’ band for the better part of ’58, a stint that no doubt helped the pianist learn what he did and didn’t want to do on his own. After being worn down and wizened by touring with Miles, a quick studio retreat with Sam Jones and Philly Joe Jones must have sounded like a relaxing idea.

This album begins to cement Evans’ artistic identity. On the one hand are the swingers like “Night and Day”, Gigi Gryce’s “Minority”, and a keen “Oleo”. Inspired by the driving sidemen, the pianist punches out clever right hand lines. His tense “Oleo” solo sideslips around the changes, and on “Night and Day” Evans contends with interjections of bass and drums. Philly Joe almost steals “Night and Day” with his drum intro and breaks, and his come-and-go approach to “Oleo” really gives the tune a jolt. Evans has no trouble with the uptempo tunes, and he lays his lines across the beat in a unique way.

On the other hand is a delicate lyricism. “Young and Foolish”, “Lucky to Be Me”, and “What is There to Say” slow down to near stillness as Evans leafs through their pages meditatively. He leaves open space in each, gently pulling the listener along but not trailing off into meekness. “Lucky” ends with a gorgeous seesaw vamp, and the “Tenderly” waltz reaches a modulated denouement that blooms like a large flower. Evans knows how to end tunes: part resolution, part cliffhanger. The solo “Peace Piece” achieves profound beauty in a simple C major vamp where the top notes gradually stray from the key. Spontaneously created, it is the only Evans “original” besides the miniature “Epilogue” that closes both sides of the LP. And “Epilogue” says a lot in its 40 seconds.

The gulf between introspection and extroversion on this album is pretty wide. It’s as if Evans has found his voice but hasn’t settled into a steady lane yet. In any case, Everybody Digs takes a big step forward.

Portrait in Jazz
Dec. 1959 / Riverside

The birth of Evans’ greatest working trio isn’t as full of quick sparks as Everybody Digs, but Portrait finds Evans acquiring his trademark touch and phrasing over bassist Scott LaFaro and the returning Paul Motian. Where Philly Joe drove Evans along, the new rhythm engine functions exactly at the pianist’s level, never leading nor falling behind. All three joust early in “Autumn Leaves”, and LaFaro is right up in the piano’s business from bar one of “Witchcraft”. The music isn’t as interactive as the upcoming Village Vanguard recordings; that’s okay, because there’s but one placid face on the cover, and it’s nice to focus on Evans bringing the extremes of Everybody Digs closer together. The ballads aren’t quite so restrained, while the uptempo numbers swing with consideration. Evans picks at the tunes from his own vantage point, but not to the point of over-analysis.

The pensive “Blue in Green” is returned to its rightful author, while “Peri’s Scope” is a sunnier original with a great Evans solo. Otherwise, it’s all well-done standards: try the two loquacious takes of “Autumn Leaves”, or the daredevil climax of the piano solo in “What is This Thing Called Love”. The aforementioned “Witchcraft” bounds along with piano and bass entwined. “When I Fall In Love” is given definitive treatment, and the prominent grace note in the first phrase lends it a sly wink. I continue to enjoy this album after many listens and recommend it to anybody approaching Evans for the first time.

Feb. 1961 / Riverside

Slightly problematic, with an empty cupboard of originals, a muddied bass presence (LaFaro was not on his regular axe), and some drippy moments. On that last charge, “Haunted Heart” and “Elsa” are maudlin tunes in which the trio has a hard time keeping their heads above water. The same could have happened with “Sweet and Lovely”, as corny a song as you can get, but Evans decorates it with a spiraling piano figure and the trio locates a nice swing. Motian’s drumming continues to mature, while LaFaro doesn’t engage Evans as much as usual. He may have been struggling with the foreign bass, and as such, his solos tend to wander and he seems disconnected from the music at times. There are reports of personal tensions at the session, although one can’t read much into that from this distance.

These little bugaboos don’t ruin an otherwise fine album that largely upholds the standard of Portrait in Jazz. Significant advances are made with “Israel” (brilliant tune choice and rendition) and “Nardis”, a moody Miles composition that Evans took under his wing and continued to explore for many years. You can slip into these tracks like a warm bath, and both inspire the trio’s ideal sound. “Beautiful Love” and “How Deep is the Ocean” also communicate the joy and effortlessness that the men were beginning to share in their playing. There are no originals to blend in with the standards, but it’s pretty clear that Bill wrote only when he felt like it, and the size of his folio was never a determining factor in whether or not he recorded an album. Per the album title, Evans and his cohorts (and his producer) were aware that this was searching music. Usually, one associates exploration and advancement with a larger ensemble and/or original writing, yet Evans was taking the trio format to a higher level. Some brief spottiness aside, Explorations contains several peak moments.

Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Waltz for Debby
June 25 1961 / Riverside

These live albums represent a day’s work at the Village Vanguard and stand as Evans’ most important recordings. All but the most curmudgeonly and agenda-bound will admit them as a couple of jazz’s most important documents as well. They lift the veil from the studio records and the trio emerges as the three-headed entity it always threatened to be, unhindered and in mutual mind. Scott LaFaro is especially prominent, working above, beneath, around, and alongside Evans’ piano with amazing confidence and fluidity. Motian is in an equal position, and though he never takes charge of the music, his smart rhythmic commentary is part of the full trio effect. Evans’ response to this flowering is to deliver some of the best improvisations of his career, on the edge of postulation and response.

The magic moment for me happens in “Solar”, the first excerpt of this gig I heard, and probably the first Bill Evans as a leader I ever heard. Evans spends his first few choruses sketching two-hand unison lines, orienting himself in the tune’s 12-bar maze, and then the rhythm section kicks in - LaFaro starts swinging a bit more, and Motian lays into his kit harder. Halfway through his twelfth chorus, Evans discovers a close-interval run, and then reiterates and extends it into his thirteenth chorus, with LaFaro picking up on the idea and joining in on the higher register. Then both players dive into lower pitches and ascend again. The climax of this little episode is right at the 3:00 mark, and as trivial as it might be to other ears, I’ve always found it a neat example of how the trio listens and reacts to each other.

Highlights from other tracks might be described in detail, but let’s instead zoom out and note the satisfactory range of the material. There’s only one Evans original, “Waltz for Debby”, introduced delicately and gaining strength as the band locks in. LaFaro contributes two tunes, the pensive “Jade Visions” and what might be considered the signature tune of the gig, “Gloria’s Step”, a wonderful piece that suits Evans to a T. Elsewhere, it’s all choice standards, including a double-dip into the ‘Porgy and Bess’ songbook that pays off well. “My Foolish Heart” showcases Evans’ tenderness, and “Some Other Time” references both “Peace Piece” and “Flamenco Sketches” by association. Speaking of Miles, this version of “Milestones” is quite different from the Davis version, as the trio drapes themselves over the modal form, where Miles & Co. were more direct and on top of the beat. For all the interplay and counterpoint that goes on with these performances, Evans’ penchant for vertical embellishment remains in place, and his chord voicings create a steady aura of beauty.

The recording balances the musicians in clear focus, especially in the 20-bit remastered editions. The individual CDs feature several alternate takes, and choosing between Sunday and Debby is silly - both are essential. (See postnote below.) The former concentrates on the playing and writing of Scott LaFaro, who died in a car accident days after the Vanguard gig. This isn’t a case where everyone raves about a certain album because it’s their last recording; his legend continues because his work was such advancement for his instrument and jazz in general. The few critics who have dissed LaFaro over the years are knuckleheads who haven’t an nth of his value.

(In 2005, Fantasy issued a three-disc box that covers the entire Vanguard gig, including a couple of tracks not present on the above albums. It’s about time all of the tracks were available in one dedicated package. Rather than rewrite any of the above, I’ll just say that the box is the way to go.)

How My Heart Sings
May-June 1962 / Riverside

After a period of mourning Scott LaFaro, Bill Evans returned to action with new bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Paul Motian. Impossible as it was to replace LaFaro, Israels’ comparatively subdued style sets a more grounded direction for the trio. If anything, the focus on the piano increases, while Motian’s sensitive drumming is still a valuable element.

Three studio dates produced these two separate albums, the first-issued being the ballad collection Moonbeams. Only once or twice does the music dip into background filler (“In Love In Vain”); for the most part, these tracks are as captivating as Evans’ best prior work. The program is bookended by two originals, the moody “Re: Person I Knew”, which has the same feel as the Vanguard stuff, and the lighthearted “Very Early”. In between are half a dozen standards whose romance is anything but cheap, even when the tune sources (“Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, “It Might as Well Be Spring”) may seem hackneyed. A concise “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and the melodic deliberations of “If You Could See Me Now” are among the other standouts.

How My Heart Sings is a more varied album, from the softly glowing title track (written by Earl Zindars) to Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” to Evans’ amusing, infectious “Show Type Tune”. In general, these selections are more upbeat than those on Moonbeams, and the likes of “I Should Care” and “34 Skidoo” gain some flexibility from the Israels-Motian pairing. “34 Skidoo” entangles Evans’ piano in a thicket of dark and light shades, recapturing the bar-blurring ambiguity of the earlier trio. You also get a relaxed version of “Summertime”, underlined by a loop-like bass vamp, and the original tune “Walkin’ Up”, which blends a progression of altered chords with a floating bridge, and whose solo illustrates Bill’s quick mind. (There’s a more rambunctious version of this piece on Evans’ 1968 Montreux recording with Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette.)

Since these discs date from the same sessions, they perfectly complement each other, and I’ve always rated them favorably, despite a few piano keys being out of tune. Though not as fantastic as the trio music with LaFaro, both Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings nurture Evans’ thoughtful piano aesthetic.

Loose Blues
August 1962 / Milestone

This session was recorded during Evans’ Riverside tenure, but due to minor problems with the performances, it was shelved for a while, eventually emerging in the 1980s by itself and in the complete Riverside box. It had the makings of a great album, given the all-original material and the expanded lineup, including Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Jim Hall (guitar), Ron Carter (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). There aren’t many distracting gaffes; it’s just that the band lacks authority in rendering Evans’ complex tunes, nothing an extra rehearsal couldn’t have fixed. Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed the sneaky “Loose Bloose” theme (which resembles “Interplay” from a different session), “Funkallero”, “Fun Ride”, and the ballad “Time Remembered”. Sims fits the music well, and Evans does some fine playing. Worth checking out for the completist.

(In 2007, a single CD was released that contains both the Interplay and Loose Blues tracks.)

At Shelly’s Manne Hole
May 1963 / Riverside

Highlights of this trio album with bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Larry Bunker include the buoyant blues “Swedish Pastry” and an extensive “Round Midnight”, where Evans fills Monk’s spaces with attractive color schemes. This live effort has never been as highly regarded as some preceding trio LPs, yet it sits in line with the style of those records. Israels and Bunker are attuned to the pianist and are always quick to support his ideas. For example, the bassline is very important to the contour of “Isn’t It Romantic”, and “Our Love is Here to Stay” unites the players in a subtle swing.

“Swedish Pastry” stands out for the way Bill tackles each chorus with a new 12-bar plan, from smooth melodies to dissonant clusters. The opening minute of “Wonder Why” makes me think of Keith Jarrett, who would patent a similar sound of innocence when playing standards. Bill’s amazing technique includes rhythmic displacements that are a lot more adventurous than some folks give him credit for. He moves ingeniously through the familiar changes of “All the Things You Are”, where a lot of space is given to Israels as well. Although the bassist isn’t an exciting soloist, he’s a terrific supporter, and Bunker deserves credit for handling the music as well as he does, given that he had only just joined the band. His classy drumming is just right for Evans’ temperament.

The 20-bit remaster of 2005 sounds wonderful. More tracks from the gig can be heard in Evans’ complete Riverside boxset.

California Here I Come
Aug. 1967 / Verve

Live at the Village Vanguard again with Eddie Gomez and Philly Joe Jones, both garrulous players who add to the outgoing nature of this music. The 2004 CD reproduces the original 1982 double LP of fifteen tracks without any extras from the hours of Vanguard material that surfaced in the 1997 complete Verve box. No complaints, though; the single disc offers a decent sample of the music played during the engagement, and the remastering is fine. Yet the question still sits: how did this music wait fifteen years before first being released?

For one thing, it doesn’t compare with the early trio’s Vanguard milestones of 1961. Gomez is as limber as LaFaro, and the Evans-Jones synergy is spot on, but the music feels rushed, and the piano playing is more ephemeral than transcendent. Evans is almost at pains to disguise his ideas, or keep them moving quickly enough so that they don’t emanate much light. The pensive potential of “Stella by Starlight” or “Very Early” disappears at fast tempos, and even “In A Sentimental Mood” is viewed from a finger-snapping distance. Not that the tracks aren’t full of happenings, but the intended moods of the songs are generally disregarded.

Nevertheless, magic occurs in “’Round Midnight” and especially “On Green Dolphin Street”, where Eddie pops a fine solo. Other tracks have glimpses of typical Evans beauty amongst the faster phrases. In “Turn Out the Stars”, another highlight, Bill’s solo continually renews itself with sudden bursts of inspiration.

It’s unclear why Jones didn’t stick around. He and Bill were a good fit back in the late ‘50s, and they sound great together on this recording. Yet the ease with which they joust keeps it from being an emotionally heavyweight album. The jumpy Gomez/Jones scaffolding makes Evans restless and all three musicians swap quick ideas. These are type-A performances, not seductive sanctuaries. I do love this album, though.

The Bill Evans Album
May-June 1971 / Columbia

Evans’s tenure at Columbia wasn’t nearly as productive as his associations with Riverside, Verve, or Fantasy, although it did produce this cordial addition to the catalog, recorded with quick-fingered bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell. Evans plays both electric and acoustic pianos, often alternating the instruments on either side of the de rigueur Gomez solos. Naturally, Evans’ touch on acoustic isn’t as recognizable when transferred to the Fender Rhodes, but his telltale phrasing is still evident. The electric piano sounds especially alluring when first heard on “Funkallero”, a revived sleeper from an earlier Riverside session with Jim Hall. (And well-revived it is.) “Waltz for Debby” swings in a bright way, while “Re: Person I Knew” acquires a heady vibe from the Rhodes oscillations. The newer material is slight and rather forgettable, excepting “Twelve Tone Tune”, which dares the Schoenbergian thing in its exposition. Evans was always up for an academic challenge and his subsequent soloing in this hip tune is nice. “Comrade Conrad” is also enjoyable, though a mid-tempo waltz like this is often the place to find Evans indulging established licks and tricks. There are at least a few instances throughout where the astute listener will recognize exact phrases that they heard Evans playing a decade earlier, which probably accounts for some ho-hum assessments of the record. Nevertheless, I’ll vouch for the successful pairing of acoustic and electric piano, and Bill’s playing is reasonably enthusiastic. Add to that the twelve-tone tune, “Funkallero”, and the Keepnews tribute (spot the anagram), and this is no dud.

I Will Say Goodbye
May 1977 / Fantasy

An enchanting latter day effort for the diverse material (Legrand, Hancock, Bacharach, etc) and Evans’ ever-expanding piano style. At times veering toward cocktail romance, other times swinging like the old days, his ideas bound gracefully across the keyboard, supported by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund. At first listen, Herbie’s “Dolphin Dance” (a perfect fit for Evans) and the original “The Opener” grab attention, and a second spin might reveal the sophisticated dynamic of “Peau Douce” and the radiant beauty of “Quiet Light”. But what really capture me are the two versions of the rich title track and “A House Is Not a Home”, a potentially cheeky tune choice that Evans makes his own (although the ending is too drawn out). The only performance that leaves me adrift is “Seascape”, well played but trapped somehow in the composition’s languid inevitability.

The OJC issue appends two bonus tracks from the same sessions, “Nobody Else But Me” and “Orson’s Theme”. Both of these are bouncier than the other cuts, and “Orson’s Theme” has one of those smooth yet intense Evans solos that spins out line after brilliant line. No real complaints about the album, except that the bass and drums are overshadowed by the piano, and there are tiny bumps in the tape here and there.

You Must Believe in Spring
Aug. 1977 / Warner Bros.

Take into account the two originals named for departed loved ones, the “Suicide is Painless” subtitle of another song, the melancholic air of most of the music, the grayish cover painting, and the fact that this was Eddie Gomez’s last work with Bill, and there’s a lot of finality in the ether. To which the title of this posthumous album is a both a black punchline and a moral of hope: death, rebirth, time marching on, and let’s photosynthesize while we can. Depressing periphery, but the playing radiates hope. The 2004 remaster updates what was already an extraordinary sounding album with the right mix of detail and ambience.

The music drowns in a reflective pool, and Evans treats the material with as much decoration as pure improvisation. Bassist Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund are superb behind him. Highlights include an elegant cover of Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” and the touching “B Minor Waltz”. After the bass spot in “You Must Believe in Spring”, Evans rips into his most outgoing solo of the album, which does make one believe in spring. Then there’s the “Theme From MASH”, starting shyly and picking up strength from Gomez’s funky bassline. Evans finds solo space in this piece but the problem is that the last half of the theme is stated every time around the house, interrupting the solo lines. Better to have followed the standard procedure of keeping the theme at bay during the solo. As it is, it sounds like a trial run, but it gives the album a unique stamp of ‘70s nostalgia.

The reissue includes three bonus tracks from the session (“Without a Song”, “Freddie Freeloader”, and “All of You”) that form a nice postscript to the original program. I would gladly take any of them in place of such weightless filler as “Gary’s Theme” or “Sometime Ago”. So the original LP could have been an outright classic in my opinion with one of these rejected tracks slotted into the mix. Of course, the latest CD lets the listener do just that.

The Paris Concert, Edition One
The Paris Concert, Edition Two
Nov. 1979 / Blue Note

In his final trio with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera, Bill Evans continues to stretch his piano playing in different directions. He steers the uptempo pieces down unexpected corridors and turns the ballads into a riot of melodic mirrors and upturned chord progressions. Highlights of Edition One include the swingers “My Romance” and “Up With the Lark”, and a bold dissertation on “I Loves You Porgy” that is as jagged as earlier versions were meditative and romantic. These tracks are contrasted by moments of tenderness (“Noelle’s Theme”, “All Mine”) and a lounge-like rumination on Paul Simon’s “I Do It For Your Love”. Except for a few bass and drum spots, Evans absolutely dominates the performances.

Edition Two features revitalized oldies (“Re: Person I Knew”, “34 Skidoo”) and softer numbers (“Letter to Evan”, “Laurie”), and as with the first volume, Evans’ solos are full of surprising turns. My favorite moment is the startlingly explorative piano introduction to “Nardis”, where Bill’s off-center rhythms and opaque voicings call to mind Jarrett or Corea. This indicates that Evans could have continued discovering new things in the avenues he had paved for himself, but sadly, he would be gone within a year of this concert.

Originally on Elektra, these two volumes were reissued in 2001 on BN. The recording is okay, minus the muffled drums and the piano slightly shifting around in the stereo spectrum.

The Last Waltz
Aug-Sept. 1980 / Milestone

Here’s the final triumph, eight discs of the Bill Evans trio with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera live at the Keystone Korner. Mere days after completing this engagement and starting a new one in New York, Evans passed away. Hearing this music in that light, the loss really hits home, but even without that circumstance, it’s still amazing. By this point, having traversed the 1970s, Evans’s piano playing had become more urgent and kinetic, at times accumulating an intensity that I would compare to John Coltrane, believe it or not - pursuing long threads and building up waves of tension that crest with great relief. Evans also coasts through some tunes, but that’s expected in such a lengthy live document, and he never plays poorly. Far from it, his technique is stunning. Johnson and LaBarbera support Evans with sympathetic counterpoint, sometimes stepping out for solos of their own.

The trio approaches the tunes with a fair amount of freedom, and Evans often playfully disguises the melodies, although this tactic dates at least as far back as “Autumn Leaves” or “Witchcraft” on Portrait of Jazz. Tunes such as “Yet Ne’er Broken”, “Like Someone In Love”, and “Turn Out the Stars” develop into exhilarating, swinging rides, while the likes of “My Foolish Heart”, “Spring Is Here”, and “My Man’s Gone Now” are more pensive. In between are a slew of gentler numbers - “Knit for Mary F”, “Emily”, “Letter to Evan” - that can become quite inspired. And then there are the multiple versions of “Nardis”, which Evans introduces with dark abstractions, and it’s such a release when he hits the tune proper and the bass and drums kick in. If nothing else, I think this box is worth it to hear how Evans brings “Nardis” into being each night.

Without detailing every tune or nuance, I can say that the sets found on Discs 2, 3, and 6 are great from start to finish, and the other sets come close. Even Disc 8, more passive than the others, has some sublime moments. It’s nice to hear the group easing in with such choices as “Peau Douce” or “Mornin’ Glory” and then raising the intensity, and you can hear the points when Evans becomes fully engaged and takes the music to a higher level. (Note “The Touch of Your Lips” on Disc 2 in that regard.) The one criticism I could make is that Evans crams so much into his playing that there are few of the romantic moods that distinguished some of his Riverside albums. I prefer those early albums for their harmonic mystique, but Evans kept evolving and reaching for new epiphanies. There is also the sense of him trying to pour out everything he could while it was still possible.

The sound quality of this box (and the follow-up Consecration) is pretty good for being a batch of uncovered reels released long after the fact. The piano is presented well throughout each set. The strength of the bass and drums depends on the intensity of each tune, although you can always feel their contributions. A rewarding investment, especially if you can find it at a reduced price, as I did.

Aug-Sept. 1980 / Milestone

Eight further discs from the Keystone Korner. Where The Last Waltz mostly contains the second set from each night, Consecration draws from the first sets. Much of the material is the same, but the performances are at least as impressive as those of The Last Waltz, consistently elegant with occasional rushes of energy and absorbing solos. The key tunes in this collection include “Re: Person I Knew”, with which Evans begins the sets with an air of hushed mystery, the often dazzling “Days of Wine and Roses”, and the climactic versions of “My Romance” that feature drummer Joe LaBarbera quite heavily. Elsewhere are further renditions of “Like Someone In Love”, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, “I Do It For Your Love”, “Knit for Mary F.” (a tender tune that often opens up as it goes along), and some barreling reads of “Suicide is Painless”. The version of “Up With the Lark” that opens Disc 5 is really nice, and keep your ears open for “Someday My Prince Will Come”, which gets the trio in an adventurous mode. I’m not as enthralled by the ubiquitous original “Your Story”, a sappy piece that to its credit never overextends itself. Evans occasionally revisits “My Foolish Heart” with traces of the immortal 1961 Vanguard version’s chordal beauty but little of its lingering pauses. To sum up Evans’ latter day playing in comparison to his early work, I’d say that he’s now more occupied with filling in the gaps. At times, the results are breathtaking; other times, I wish he’d let those lovely chords sustain a bit longer.

My verdict on both Consecration and The Last Waltz is that they contain great playing and vibrantly cap a musical life. You have to hear at least one of them if you want to know how it all ended.

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