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Archive for the ‘Bill Evans’ Category

Original Jazz Classics Celebrates 60 Years of Riverside with Evans, Montgomery, Baker, More

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Mulligan Meets Monk

From its headquarters at 553 West 51st Street in New York, New York, the Riverside Records label presided over an impressive roster of jazz talent.  Founded in 1953 by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer, Riverside was home at one time or another to Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Alberta Hunter, Johnny Griffin, plus a number of artists currently being recognized with deluxe reissues from the Riverside catalogue: Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and Milt Jackson, Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans.  That “Who’s Who” of jazz is represented via five new titles as part of Concord Records’ Original Jazz Classics series celebrating Riverside’s 60th anniversary:

  • Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, Mulligan Meets Monk (1957)
  • Cannonball Adderley with Milt Jackson, Things Are Getting Better (1958)
  • Chet Baker, Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (1959)
  • Wes Montgomery, So Much Guitar! (1961)
  • The Bill Evans Trio, How My Heart Sings! (1964)

All five titles are available now, newly remastered by Joe Tarantino and expanded with bonus tracks and new liner notes by writers including Neil Tesser (Mulligan and Monk), Willard Jenkins (Adderley and Jackson), James Rozzi (Baker), Marc Myers (Montgomery) and Doug Ramsey (Evans).  Producer Orrin Keepnews’ original notes have been reprinted, as well.  After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at each of them! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 22, 2013 at 13:11

Cast Your Fate to the Wind with New “Very Best of Jazz” Collections From Brubeck, Evans, Guaraldi, More

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What makes a legend most?

When it comes to the legends of jazz, Concord Music Group has that answer for you.  Earlier this year, Concord launched The Very Best Of, a new series of “Jazz 101” collections designed at an affordable price point.  These compact sets might introduce new fans to daunting catalogues, or offer longtime fans a compact sampler of a favorite artist.  The first wave of titles arrived for Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone), Chet Baker (trumpet) and Wes Montgomery (guitar), but the second group of artists is equally illustrious.  Four are pianists that would make any jazz buff’s all-star team, and one is an alto saxophone great:  Vince Guaraldi (piano), Dave Brubeck (piano), Thelonious Monk (piano), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone) and Bill Evans (piano), with his first Trio (Evans, Paul Motian on drums and Scott LaFaro on bass).  The rich family of labels under the Concord umbrella – including Fantasy, Milestone, Riverside and Prestige – captured many of these titanic talents before they were snapped up by larger labels, and so these compilations offer a window into their formative years, including a selection of their signature tunes.

Good grief!  Composer and pianist Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) isn’t always spoken of in the same breath as contemporaries like Brubeck, Evans or Monk (all represented in this piano-heavy quintet of releases!), most likely due to the overwhelming “crossover” success he experienced as the writer of some very famous songs: namely “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and the Peanuts-inspired tracks “Linus and Lucy” and “Christmas Time is Here.”  Though “Cast Your Fate” netted Guaraldi a Billboard hit and a Grammy Award, its popularity was arguably eclipsed by his series of Peanuts soundtracks on which he gave jazzy life to Charles M. Schulz’s comic-strip characters.  And “Cast Your Fate” was the tune that persuaded producer Lee Mendelson to make the call to Guaraldi that led to the Peanuts jobs.  It leads off this 14-track assemblage, and remains one of the most beguiling songs ever.  Whether you think of it as jazz (its majestic piano solo certainly qualifies!) or pop, its Latin groove, shifting mood and changing tempo all still captivate.  The Very Best of Vince Guaraldi also includes the Bay Area legend’s renditions of standards from Burton Lane and Frank Loesser, and Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, as well as his famed renditions of songs from Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa’s Black Orpheus soundtrack.  (Another bossa nova from the pen of Jobim, “Outra Vez,” also appears, and the Brazilian legend’s influence on Guaraldi the composer and arranger is apparent.)

Needless to say, the Peanuts songs (“Linus and Lucy,” “Christmas is Coming,” “Charlie Brown Theme” and the instrumental-only “Christmas Time is Here”) occupy significant space on the collection.  How many children had their first introduction to jazz via Vince Guaraldi?  His dexterity and breezy style are recognizable on lesser-known songs like “Ginza,” with the pianist joined by Bola Sete on guitar, Monty Budwig on bass and Nick Martinez on drums.  Budwig would also play bass on “Linus and Lucy.”  A more reserved, slinky side of Guaraldi is brought out on John Lewis’ “Django,” on which he employs his trademark deceptive simplicity with another sympathetic group (Eddie Duran on guitar and Dean Reilly on bass).  All told, ten albums are excerpted from the 1956-1966 period, adding up to a primer on the man once known as “Dr. Funk” but forever immortalized as the musical voice of a boy named Charlie Brown.  (A more comprehensive career overview is also offered from Concord: 2009’s 2-CD, 31-track Definitive Vince Guaraldi.)

We’ve written often here about Bill Evans (1929-1980), one of the most-anthologized pianists ever, and a pioneer in the area of modal jazz (in which the solos build from the key, not – as is traditional – from chord changes only.)  Even while fighting considerable demons, Evans was capable of creating music both heartbreaking and beautiful, and he arguably found his most sympathetic partners when he formed his first Trio.  The music on The Very Best of the Bill Evans Trio shows how closely attuned Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian were, for the brief but incandescent period between 1959 and 1961.  LaFaro and Motian weren’t so much supporting Evans as all three gentlemen were playing as one voice, tearing down the walls in a free, post-bop environment.  Yet this groundbreaking team only recorded three dates together, resulting in two live albums and two studio albums: Portrait in Jazz, Explorations (the two studio sets), Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard (the two live sets).  Any further explorations of this Bill Evans Trio were curtailed when LaFaro perished in a car accident, aged just 25, in 1961.  Evans’ grief was so great that he didn’t perform in a public setting for nearly one year after LaFaro’s death.  But oh, what music LaFaro, with Evans and Motian, left behind.

Six of the eleven tracks here are standards, sensitively reinterpreted by the Trio, including Johnny Mercer’s “Autumn Leaves,” Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is the Ocean,” and George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s “My Man’s Gone Now” from Porgy and Bess.  The remaining tracks are compositions by Evans (his own oft-recorded “Waltz for Debby”), LaFaro (“Gloria’s Step”), Miles Davis (“Solar” and “Nardis”).  Shortly before forming the Trio, Evans had performed with Davis on one of the most influential and successful jazz albums of all time, Kind of Blue.  “Blue in Green” was jointly credited to Davis and Evans on that album, though many (including liner notes scribe Neil Tesser) doubt Davis had much to do with it.  Evans revisited the piece sans Davis’ horn less than one year after Kind of Blue on this subtle recording from Portrait in Jazz.  All eleven tracks show the many sides of Evans: moody and intense, yes, but also deeply lyrical, highly romantic and passionately swinging.  Of course, you might just want to go out and buy all four of the Trio’s seminal recordings, but if not, this is a solid place to dip your toes into the water.

After the jump: we explore two more iconic pianists, plus the great alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 11, 2012 at 10:10

Turn Out The Stars: Lost Bill Evans Concert Premieres From Resonance Records

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Louis Armstrong isn’t the only late jazz great being remembered with a new posthumous release.  Following its acclaimed discovery of early Wes Montgomery performances, the Resonance Records label is turning its attention to pioneering pianist Bill Evans.  Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate will arrive from Resonance on June 12 in both compact disc and vinyl editions, preserving Evans’ performance at New York City’s Village Gate on October 23, 1968.

One of the most influential jazz pianists of all time, the native of Plainfield, New Jersey developed an introverted style of playing and broke ground in the field of modal jazz, i.e. the solos build from the key, not (as is traditional) from chord changes only.  He made his debut album in 1956 with New Jazz Conceptions which introduced the future standard penned by Evans, “Waltz for Debby.”  In 1958, he began a brief but important tenure in Miles Davis’ band, and although he had left the group proper by then, he returned at Davis’ behest to play a prominent role on 1959’s Kind of Blue, one of the most notable jazz albums of all time.  As the year drew to a close, Evans had formed his own trio with Scott LaFaro (bass) and Paul Motian (drums), and with those incredibly sympathetic collaborators, he further explored slow ballad tempi and playing at a quiet, inward volume in this post-bop era.

LaFaro’s death in a car accident in 1961 devastated Evans, but he continued to record with bassist Chuck Israels and then in a variety of settings, winning a Grammy Award for 1963’s Conversations with Myself on which he overdubbed multiple piano parts himself.  Eddie Gomez joined the trio on bass in 1966 during Evans’ tenure at Verve, by which time Motian had already departed the group.  (Both Motian, who died in November 2011, and Gomez remembered their time with Evans on a successful new recording with Chick Corea, Further Explorations.  It was released earlier this year.)

The Evans/Gomez/Marty Morell iteration of the Trio was long-lasting, and after Morell left in 1975, Evans and Gomez recorded a couple of well-regarded duo albums. During the 1970s, Evans also recorded two highly acclaimed piano/vocal albums with Tony Bennett before succumbing in 1980 to the drug addictions that had plagued him throughout most of his personal life.  He left behind a catalogue on various labels of over fifty albums as a leader and countless more as a sideman.

Yet those demons won’t be readily in evidence on Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate.  Hit the jump for the full scoop including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 18, 2012 at 14:54

Posted in Bill Evans, News, Reissues, Vinyl

New Concord Reissues on the Way, None of Which Are Ray Charles-Related

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From Paste magazine, we have word of a few expanded reissues due from the Concord catalogue, which will include titles by The Vince Guaraldi Trio, Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Chet Baker and The Bill Evans Trio. Still no word on another intriguing Concord catalogue title – Ray Charles’ Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters, supposedly due for release October 26 – but these might be of interest to our jazz-minded readers. None of these have been reported on Concord’s own site (based on this author’s past experiences with the label, that’s not much of a surprise), but pre-order links are up at Amazon with September 28 releases for each. Hit the jump to see the track lists.

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 31, 2010 at 12:18