From Miles Davis' Doo-Bop to albums by Greg Osby and Steve Coleman, much of the "jazz/rap fusion" released has been more hip-hop than jazz – essentially, hip-hop with jazz overtones. Bill Evans, however, has featured rappers in much the way a hard bopper would feature a singer – on "Reality" and the poignant, reggae-influenced "La Di Da," rapper Ahmed Best successfully interacts with an actual, spontaneous, improvisatory band instead of merely pre-recorded tracks. Best's rapping style – a cerebral approach akin to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest instead of more hardcore rappers like Tupac Shakur and Ice-T – is well-suited to this challenging and complex jazz-fusion setting.
On June 25th, 1961, Bill Evans and his trio made jazz history over the course of five sets at the Village Vanguard. Selections from those performances were released on two full-length LPs, WALTZ FOR DEBBY and Sunday AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD, both of which went on to become landmark jazz albums from the era. The three-disc COMPLETE VILLAGE VANGUARD RECORDINGS provides a valuable service by presenting all five sets in their complete and original sequence, with crisp remastered sound, a previously unissued take (Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step"), and snippets of on-stage patter.
This magnificent 12-CD set contains all of Bill Evans' Riverside recordings as a leader, an extremely important period in the influential pianist's development. The first session predates Evans' period with the Miles Davis Sextet and other significant sessions include his sets with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian (highlighted by the marathon Village Vanguard session of June 25, 1961), Evans' return nearly a year after LaFaro's death in a car accident with a new trio (consisting of Motian and bassist Chuck Israels), a sideman set with altoist Cannonball Adderley, the Interplay sessions with either trumpeter Freddie Hubbard or tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, an extensive and rather somber solo set, and a 1963 appearance at Shelly's Manne Hole with bassist Israels and drummer Larry Bunker.
Bill Evans' Fantasy recordings of 1973-1979 have often been underrated in favor of his earlier work but, as this remarkable nine-CD set continually shows, the influential pianist continued to grow as a musician through the years while holding on to his original conception and distinctive sound. The collection has all of the 98 selections recorded at Evans' 11 Fantasy sessions, including nine numbers from a previously unreleased 1976 concert with his trio. In addition, Evans' appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz radio program is tacked on as a bonus and it is actually among McPartland's finest shows, a fascinating hour of discussion and music with Evans.
THE COMPLETE BILL EVANS ON VERVE is an 18-disc, 269-track box set featuring every track that Bill Evans recorded for Verve between 1962 and 1969, including 98 previously-unreleased tracks. It includes a 160-page, full-color book. THE COMPLETE BILL EVANS ON VERVE was nominated for a 1998 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package - Boxed and for Best Historical Album. The 18 CDs in this exhaustive set provide a comprehensive picture of Bill Evans from 1962 to 1969, a period when the pianist was both consolidating his fame and sometimes taking his music into untested waters, from unaccompanied piano to symphony orchestra. His work with multitracked solo piano, originally released as Conversations with Myself and the later Further Conversations with Myself, was the most remarkable new format for his introspective music. It gave Evans a way to be all the pianists he could be at once–combining densely chordal, harmonically oblique parts with surprising, rhythmic punctuation and darting, exploratory runs.
In the '60s the jazz pianist Bill Evans would occasionally record an orchestral "easy listening" session to pay the bills, with predictably mediocre results. But FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, while certainly easy on the ears, is also one of Evans' most intriguing "lost" records, brought to us courtesy of Verve's winning "By Request" series. The novelty is that Evans plays both Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano simultaneously in real time, trading off themes and improvs with deliberative taste and, of course, rare skill. The sessions were produced by Evans' long-time, protective manager Helen Keane, so there was little danger of "selling out."
During the seven year span at Riverside that launched his career, Bill Evans only twice recorded outside his customary trio format: in the summer of 1962, when he went into the studio in quintet settings involving some of the major jazz artists of the period. The results are combined in this package. #1-6 originally issued as Interplay (Riverside 445). #7-13 originally issued as part of The Interplay Sessions double-LP (Milestone 47055), as previously unreleased selections.
The two LP editions recorded at this Paris concert were the last examples of Bill Evans' playing to be released at the time. With bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe La Barbera, Evans had one of the strongest trios of his career, as can be heard on such pieces as Edition One's "My Romance," "I Loves You, Porgy," and "Beautiful Love." The close communication between the players is reminiscent of Evans' 1961 unit with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian.
A beautiful pairing – the keyboards of Bill Evans and harmonica of Toots Thielemans – presented here in a space that marks the record as one of the best from both players in the 70s! Some tunes are sad and blue, and very spare – others a bit more upbeat and lyrical, almost taking us back to Bill's more sprightly modes of the early 60s – and the clear, clean sound offers up the best tones from both players in a perfect space. Other musicians include Marc Johnson on bass, Eliot Zigmund on drums, and Larry Schneider on flute, tenor, and soprano sax – and Evans plays a bit of electric piano in addition to acoustic, something we always love!