Of pianist Bill Evans' many live albums, At Town Hall ... Vol. 1 has always been among his most delicate and elegant. Evans' playing is taut and graceful, with lovely long improvisational lines and a snappy, fluid attack on the keyboard. The mix of standards and two originals—one was a suite in memory of his' father, who died just three days earlier—also were neatly selected and assembled.
For those who share my love of this album, here's a list of little-known facts about the recording taken from Peter Pettinger's How My Heart Sings, a Bill Evans' discography, and quotes from sources I spoke to yesterday afternoon. I also have a rare treat for you at the bottom:
- Despite playing New York club dates for 10 years, the Town Hall recording on February 21, 1966 was Evans' first New York concert appearance.
- Evans played the first half of the Town Hall concert with just bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Arnie Wise, and the second half with an orchestra.
- According to Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, the orchestra segment was arranged and conducted by Al Cohn [pictured] and featured Ernie Royal, Clark Terry and Bill Berry (trumpets), Bob Brookmeyer, Quentin Jackson and Bill Watrous (trombone), Bob Northern (French horn), Jerry Dodgion, George Marge, Eddie Daniels, Frank Petrovsky and Marvin Holladay (reeds), Evans (piano), Chuck Israels (bass) and Grady Tate (drums).
- The orchestra performed four Al Cohn-arranged tunes: Willow Weep for Me and What Kind of Fool Am I as well as Evans' originals Funkallero and Waltz for Debby.
- Verve never released Volume 2, which was to have featured the orchestral material and three trio tracks that didn't fit on the first LP. Yesterday I asked Jan Stevens of The Bill Evans Web Pages what became of the band tracks. Jan says Evans was intensely displeased with the result:
- Although Creed Taylor's name and signature were used by Verve on the LP jacket, Creed told me yesterday that Helen alone produced the concert and that he wasn't there and had nothing to do with the event or the album's production.
- Gene Lees, the legendary jazz writer and close friend of Evans, said yesterday he couldn't remember the concert and didn't know specifically why the orchestral material wasn't issued or what happened to the tracks.
- The concert was Chuck Israels' last recorded appearance as a regular member of the Bill Evans Trio.
- Note-for-note piano transcriptions of the six songs recorded at Town Hall were recently issued as Bill Evans at Town Hall: Piano Transcriptions and Performance Notes by Pascal Wetzel. You'll find it here.
And now for the treat I promised you above. Thanks to the generosity of JazzWax reader Kurt Kolstad, who attended the Town Hall concert in 1966, here's the program sheet, front and back, including Gene Lees' tribute essay. Kurt says the song selections did not appear in the program and were announced from the stage (click on the image to enlarge):