Bill Evans at the Gate (1968) - JazzWax

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June 08, 2012


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For me, Bill's recordings of Nardis are one of the most fascinating parts of his repertoire. He played it with every group but his conception of the piece was constantly growing. Every performance seemed to be a bit more elaborate and adventurous than the last. With the last trio the performances became quite cathartic with Bill seemingly exorcising all of his demons; but I wouldn't say "joyless" - certainly not for me the listener.

Bill Kirchner

I heard this trio at the Top of the Gate around 1972 and it was electrifying. I've always thought that it's been underrated. Prior to the release of this set, their recording MONTREUX II (CTI, 1970) came closest to documenting what I heard live. I hope that this new one is as good or better.

Mike Harris

Among the many hours of so-called "Secret Sessions" tapes which I handed over to Orrin Keepnews and Fantasy Records, in the mid-1990's, were many evenings of recordings of this same band, when they were playing at the Village Gate in the late '60's (as I recall, the piano at the Vanguard had become essentially "unplayable" during this period). Since the theme for the "Secret Sessions" boxset was to be "Recorded at the Village Vanguard,", these Village Gate sessions were not included in the 8-CD release. At any rate, subsequent to the transfer of all Fantasy/Milestone archives to Concord several years ago, these tapes have now become their property, and are presumably currently
sequestered in their archives (in addition to the remainder of the 80-odd hours of unreleased tapes from the Vanguard). Whether they will ever be edited and released is sadly anybody's guess.

Jan Stevens

Superb piece, Marc. But in your list of live 1960s Evans recordings you left out the 1968 MONTREUX record for Verve from 1968, with Eddie and Jack DeJohnette!


Excellent review, Marc. I laughed out loud when I read your 'This is a Nardis-free CD set, which will come as a relief for those who don't care much for the joyless song that Evans played relentlessly.'!

Of course, like all Bill Evans fans I'm very excited about these new CDs. I'm expecting to hear something along the lines of the 'California, Here I Come' recording. Although, that was with Philly Joe Jones on drums. That was the most 'upbeat' recording of Bill Evans that I know.

Howard Weingrad

Am I missing something -- a "masterpiece" matching the 1961 Vanguard Sessions? From a pure sound quality standpoint, I expected a much cleaner sound, given all the pre-release hype. I downloaded the mp3 version from Amazon, and while the sound is certainly intimate, the piano sounds muddled and watery, particularly in the middle range; not the amazing quality I had expected. But it is Evans' playing and that of the trio as a whole that disappoints. Evans is rushing here, quite a bit, and it's unsettling at times. He ushes the tempo faster and faster, most notably during his solos, and in doing so he stays so on top of the beat as to reduce his swing quotiant to that of a mechanical type-writer, while plowing through his repertoire of "Evans" licks, often to a finsish that sounds abrupt. Evans sounds at times like he's mailing in "Evans" solos. There's also a sense that Gomez and Morrel are merely following Evans -- catching up with him -- as opposed to the equal, blended interplay as between Evans, LaFaro and Motion on the Vanguard Sessions. The new Top Of The Gate release is fine enough, if only because we do get to hear for the first time trio versions of "My Funny Valentine" and "Here's That Rainy Day" (the later sounding as if Gomez and Morrel are playing through the changes for the first time, with Evans essentially playing the solo arrangement he had just recorded for "Alone") but is it really a work, on any level, to compare to the Vanguard Sessions?

Brian Blevins

This is a wonderful recording to add to the available Evans "live" discography. Thanks to the national radio and TV networks in France, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany and Canada that care about good music, there are numerous professionally-recorded Evans concerts.

As a staff member in the PR department of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, in the 1960s, one of my functions was to produce a series of cultural events that would link the campus with the community. We brought in numerous artists -- Roland Kirk, Bobby Hutcherson, Benny Golson, Jeremy Steig, Archie Shepp...and, on October 3, 1968, The Bill Evans Trio -- a couple of weeks before the Village Gate performances documented here.

The poster we created for the event listed Jack DeJohnette as drummer, but it was Marty who showed up -- so the transition had just taken place.

With Helen Keane's approval, I arranged for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to record the event for radio broadcast(part of which can be heard on the Milestone recording "Blue in Green"). The contract for the gig stipulated a Steinway piano, which we had in our theater. When we brought in a piano tuner that afternoon, he worked on it for a while -- but he knew Evans' music and told us that it was impossible. I scrambled to rent another piano, but the only one available was a Yamaha. I relayed this to Helen when we met them all at the airport, and she was OK with it.

The concert, was, of course, amazing. (Tickets were $2.50, or $1.50 for students!)

A year later I had moved to Europe and was a staff reporter in the London bureau of Billboard Magazine. In a front-page story, I reported that Bill's trio was headlining the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland -- a return engagement to the event he had established with his Verve recording two years earlier. I was honored when Helen asked me to write the liner notes for the CTI album "Montreux II."

Apologies for all this reminiscence, but this wonderful new release (important not only for the recording quality but for the repertoire) brought back a flood of memories of one of the most magic times in my life.

I met with Bill and Helen in New York a couple of times subsequently. The only thing more impressive than Bill's genius was his humility.

Brian Blevins

Jeff Hunt

Ashamed to say I've only just heard about this project. When I watched the video clip and heard Bill play the tears came to my eyes. He has an emotional depth to his playing that few can ever achieve. Thank God there are people who can see and feel this and have put all this together. Thankyou for all you've done in making this available. We all know that it will light up our lives for years to come.

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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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