Bill Evans: Early v. Late - JazzWax

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July 02, 2009


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Bill Forbes

Your list of ten favorites closely mirrors my collection, Marc, except that I also treasure Portrait in Jazz and the Paris Concert albums. So, I go for the supremacy of early Evans, plus a burst of inspiration at the end.

Ed Leimbacher

Well said, Marc! Your reasoning resonates with my own bias, and your 10 faves are eminently reasonable too, so i won't even mention Bennett and Evans--oops, sorry!--your bete noire. But i AM happy to own the Complete Riverside box, subsuming so many and adding more...

Ian Carey

Two albums you left out which I would mention as late-period keepers are the great "New Conversations" (somewhat less relaxed than the previous 2 Conversations records but with some classic cuts--"Nobody Else But Me"!--just the same) and the quintet album "We Will Meet Again," although I confess that I love that one more for Tom Harrell than for Bill's playing, which ranges from the 70s running-on-empty style you mentioned to some really beautiful ballad work (esp. the title cut).


The seldom mentioned live sets "You're Gonna Hear from Me" and "Jazzhouse" (particular the former) found Bill in a pretty warm and romantic mood in 1969. I like these sessions more than any of the live albums from this middle period that were released during Evans' life.

Thierry Peremarti

Eternal dilemma... early Bill Evans versus later Bill Evans. Same with Jimi Hendrix or Billie Holiday or Chet Baker.
For myself I prefer the wounded animal of the later years, the naked artist, the musician who doesn't only play piano anymore, but plays poetry, grace, feelings, who's a definite open book, so intensely readable, who can't create a new dimension anymore but can only retrace his steps to try to paint an even more beautiful painting, someone who is still looking for miracles and knows that somehow it was easier before. What courage! Those last 3 years... His notes are chiseled. He’s not trying to be at his best, he’s trying to "be", through the piano. And if you don't have tears in your eyes after listening to the Paris Concerts or "You must Believe in Spring," then we can't understand each other!

Deaf Smith

TP certainly does go all out--no-longer-human Bill plays poetry, reads his own open book, repaints previous canvases, chisels courageous miracles... whoa, Nelly, and here we thought he was a jazz pianist! But watch out for those uncritical bullets, Marc, should you not have tears in your eyes.

Greg Lee

One man's chainsaw....Tokyo Concert opens with the tender "Mornin' Glory" and a rousing "Up With the Lark," they are delightful to my ears....and "Hullo Bolinas"? Poetry. No, the Red Cover album will always be one of my favorites. I think there's just so much Evans to love from whatever period, in between the repetitions and the sleepwalking sets are constant nuggets of wisdom.

Hmm, his best performance of "Turn Out the Stars" just might be on Since We Met, from the early '70s, I can hear that one note-for-note in my head. And his epic turns on "Nardis" throughout the final Village Vanguard box are incredible, no one alike and all possessed.

Keep 'em coming, Marc, we love the debate!

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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