The Bill Evans Trio Plays With Spontaneity And Grace On 'Another Time'

Aug 14, 2017
Originally published on August 28, 2017 10:43 am
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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. For a few months in 1968, jazz pianist Bill Evans led a trio with Jack DeJohnette on drums and Eddie Gomez on bass. They spent five weeks in Europe. A newly unearthed concert recording catches them live in a Dutch radio studio. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "ALFIE")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: The Bill Evans Trio in 1968, whispering Burt Bacharach's "Alfie." Evans is getting some renewed attention lately. That's partly due to Bruce Spiegel's documentary "Bill Evans: Time Remembered," a detailed dive into his complicated life. Like other jazz docs, it left me wishing for more uninterrupted music. But there are plenty of Evans records for that. Those now include a previously unissued gem from 1968, "Another Time: The Hilversum Concert." Evans' trio plays with spontaneity and grace and is always swinging some kind of way.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "YOU'RE GONNA HEAR FROM ME")

WIHTEHEAD: Bill Evans is best remembered for bringing Euro-romantic harmony and gauzy atmospherics to jazz piano, as on Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue." But Evans came up digging the great bebop pianist whose right hand sang improvised melodies like a saxophone. Eddie Gomez, his bassist for a couple of years already, could walk behind him or step up to play counterpoint. Jack DeJohnette might use his brushes to slap out running commentary or goose them along.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "VERY EARLY")

WIHTEHEAD: As a pianist himself, Jack DeJohnette knows how the overtones of cymbals and drums can interfere with piano and how to avoid that. He's a master of cymbal textures, knows all the sounds they can make depending on where and how hard you strike them and what with. DeJohnette brings a playful quality to this sober trio. On Evans' break tune "Five," drums play an odd game of peekaboo before settling down to a serious swing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "FIVE")

WIHTEHEAD: Bill Evans had worked with independent-minded bass virtuosos before Eddie Gomez. But none had more lasting influence. During his years with Evans, Gomez set the style for piano trio bass solos. Soon, dozens of bassists were scooting up the neck to pluck fast melodies in the cello range.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "EMILY")

WIHTEHEAD: After this 1968 concert, Eddie Gomez would go on to play with Bill Evans for another nine years. That says it all about their compatibility. Good as Jack DeJohnette sounded with them, three months later, he was gone. By the end of the year, he'd record his first album as leader and start playing with Miles Davis. A decade later, DeJohnette would draft Eddie Gomez into a new quartet. And they'd also reunite behind other leaders. Bill Evans continued on with trios until his death in 1980. He led some very good ones. This was one of his best.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "WHO CAN I TURN TO?")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and TONEAudio and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed the previously unissued recording "Another Time: The Hilversum Concert" by the Bill Evans Trio, recorded in 1968. It's on vinyl now and will be available on CD and download September 1. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Max Brooks, author of "The Zombie Survival Guide," "World war Z" and a new novelization of the video game "Minecraft." His zombie books are his way of dealing with fears he grew up with, like the AIDS epidemic, earthquakes, war. He now works with the military on preparedness training. Max is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS' "WHO CAN I TURN TO?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.