Bill Evans - N.Y.C.’s No Lark

Conversations With Myself' was Bill's first solo album for Verve Records after being released from his contract by Riverside Records. Recorded at three different studio sessions on February 6th, 9th, and 20th 1963, Evans used the, then controversial, method of overdubbing three different yet corresponding piano tracks for each song.

The album would earn Evans his first Grammy Award in 1964 for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Gene Lees remembers:

"We were both nominated for Grammy awards that year, Bill for 'Conversations With Myself' and I for Best Album Notes (for the Stan Getz & João Gilberto album). He had nothing appropriate to wear to the banquet. As it happened, I was storing a closet full of clothes for Woody Herman, one of the dapper dressers in the history of the business. There was a particularly well-made blue blazer which, to Bill’s surprise and mine, fit him perfectly. So he donned it. Just before we were to leave, I turned somehow and spilled a drink in his lap. Fortunately there was another pair of slacks that fit him. We picked up Helen and went to the banquet. And I managed to repeat the trick: I turned and spilled another drink in his lap. He said, “Man, are you trying to tell me something?” At that moment, they called his name. Bill picked up his Grammy for Conversations very wet”.

N.Y.C.’s No Lark' was a tribute to his pianist friend, Sonny Clark, who had died on January 13th of that year, 1963. It’s a brooding piece, with the climax expressing how Evans felt.

By the way: ‘N.Y.C.’s No Lark' is an anagram…

The Bill Evans Trio on BBC’s ‘Jazz 625' (Complete Registration)

On the all-too-rare occasions when jazz gets an outing on television, many viewers make inevitable, and often unfavourable, comparisons with ‘Jazz 625’. A well-informed presenter, a superb sound balance and an uncluttered approach to camera work and direction all combined to set a gold standard in the televisual representation of jazz. It was also in the right place at the right time. The end of the long-standing deadlock between the Musicians’ Union and the American Federation of Musicians meant that big names from the US were coming over to Britain for the first time since the 1930’s.

Bill Evans on Jazz 625

Many shows of its era are ill-represented in the BBC archives, as they were either junked after transmission or, if broadcast live, not recorded at all. Happily, this is not the case with ‘Jazz 625’. With video tape recording still in its infancy, machines were in heavy demand. So, many programmes, particularly in the drama field, were ‘telerecorded’ onto 35mm film, from a feed of the studio output. This method made editing a lot easier, and has aided the survival of programmes recorded in this way.

Recorded at the BBC Studios, London, on March 19th, 1965

Bill Evans - Piano
Chuck Israels - Bass
Larry Bunker - Drums

'Up With The Lark', by the Bill Evans Trio

The last song of the ‘Paris-theme-week’ is the beautiful ‘Up With The Lark' by the (last) Bill Evans Trio, recorded by Radio France at the L'Espace Cardin, Paris, on November 26th, 1979.
Bill Evans Trio - The Paris Concert, Edition One
Peter Pettinger writes in his amazingly thorough book ‘Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings' on page 267: “…Returning to the ever-welcoming Parisians, they gave two sets at L'Espace Cardin, performances that have long been acclaimed as among the finest from the Bill Evans Trio…During the interval and throughout the following (solo) piano items the double bass was sitting out on stage under the lights, going gradually out of tune. When Marc Johnson joined Evans on the platform for their duo spot, it was for 'Up With The Lark’, which Evans pointedly commenced, as usual, on a reiterated G in the bass. Whether this was originally for tuning purposes or not, it became a curious feature of every performance…”

Today’s album, ‘The Paris Concert, Edition One' was voted best album of 1980 by the Association of French Jazz Critics, and the last to be approved and released by Helen Keane (his manager) during Bill's lifetime. The photograph used on the cover is called 'Île de la Cité 1951' and was shot by one of my photographic heroes, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

And with that, I will leave you for now (I’m off to Paris) and hope to see you all sometime next week… 

Bill Evans - Piano
Marc Johnson - Bass
Joe LaBarbera - Drums (not present on this track)

The Universal Mind Of Bill Evans

From the jazz (& scrap) pages personal archives, I bring you the intriguing documentary ‘The Universal Mind Of Bill Evans’. 
Several years ago, Rhapsody released a 21-minute video called ‘Bill Evans On The Creative Process’, a badly edited reduction of a 1966 TV program introduced by Steve Allen, the first host of the now famous ‘Tonight Show’. This short film is a restoration of the original 45-minute telecast with Evans, his hair slicked back, his terrible teeth uncapped, a cigarette waving in the air, in intense conversation with his composer brother Harry Evans (a professor of music at Louisiana State University) on the nature of creativity in jazz. 

The Universal Mind Of Bill Evans

This documentary features an in-depth discussion of Evans’ internal process of song interpretation, improvisation, and repertoire. Through demonstration on the piano, Bill uses the song ‘Star Eyes' to illustrate his own conception of solo piano and how to interpret and expand upon the melody and underlying chord structure.

Onstage, Evans was famously reticent about speaking, but here he’s surprisingly, stirringly provocative.

'Minority', by Bill Evans

When dog-gestures became my 400th follower, he had a very specific song for me to write about. It was ‘Minority’, from the 1958 album ‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans’.

It had been over two years since Evans’ release of ’New Jazz Conceptionsand his recent departure from the Miles’ septet, which immensely boosted Evans’ confidence, provided the right opportunity for Orrin Keepnews to persuade him to make that long-overdue second record.

Bill Evans - Everybody Digs Bill Evans

Minority’, the Gigi Gryce hard bop original which opens this album, demonstrates that he was ready to release this album, and then some. Anyone who thinks of Evans as a ‘neo-impressionist’ will be surprised by the pianist’s hard driving swing here, backed up by the top rhythm section consisting of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Even as Evans was a ‘pretty’ player who avoided rushing or stuffing his notes, he could swing and swing hard as he did on this song.

Bill Evans - Piano
Sam Jones - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums 

The Keepnews Collection, #5

The Keepnews Collection is a series of reissues of classic Riverside jazz albums.
Mr. Keepnews was the co-founder and producer of Riverside Records and tells great anecdotes from that time. Every episode is a different album.

Today’s feature: Blue Mitchell with ‘Blue Soul

You might also want to check out my previous posts about these series:

"With a beard on!", Bill Evans sings…

This was recorded in Stockholm on August 23rd, 1964, when Bill was making a recording with Monica Zetterlund for broadcast later in the year on Swedish radio.

It’s so sweet to hear serious and quiet Bill fooling around between two takes, it might as well be an episode from a Muppet Show Christmas special.

This song, amongst other beautiful stuff, can be heard on ‘The Complete Bill Evans On Verve’.

I would like to take the opportunity to wish everybody on Tumblr, and especially my ‘followers’, a very merry Christmas! 

Bill Evans

'West Coast Ghost', by Charlie Mingus

After becoming my 200th follower, I asked ohmicorazon what or who he wanted me to write about. His answer was:

I’m so glad to be your lucky 200th follower. If you haven’t already, I’d really like to see a post dedicated to Charles Mingus please. :) …”

I wanted to come up with something more original than ‘Mingus Ah Um’, ‘The Black Saint' or 'Pithecanthropus' (although, of course, masterpieces, but I will talk about them later), so I came up with 'West Coast Ghost', from the album 'East Coasting’. I hope you like it.

Charlie Mingus - East Coasting

This sextet session dates from 1957, when Mingus was first assembling his Jazz Workshop. Mingus had already put together the core of the band that would reach its summit two years later with ‘Mingus Ah Um’, including saxophonist Shafi Hadi, trombonist Jimmy Knepper, and drummer Dannie Richmond, who would be with Mingus’s bands for the next two decades. ‘East Coasting' is notable for the presence of pianist Bill Evans, who briefly worked for Mingus before joining Miles Davis for the landmark album 'Kind Of Blue’.

How that came about can be read in Pettinger’s book ‘Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings’, page 42-43:

"…One night in August he (Evans) came home at about 4 a.m. to find a wire: “Can you make a record date this morning at 10 a.m. with Charlie Mingus?”
For some reason Wade Legge, current pianist in the Mingus group, was not going to be there for the session. Evans made it to the sessions (for Bethlehem Records) and sight-read the parts- as Gil Evans used to say, Bill was a quick study…
On ‘West Coast Ghost’, Evans’s aural imagination again dictated to him that sound quality was as important as material, in this case resulting in an exemplary synthesis: as he played here, and sustained in the pedal, the music tugged at the listener with a plaintive cry…”

WARNING: Listening to this will leave you with this tune in your head for hours days.

'Mox Nix' by Art Farmer

Art Farmer - Modern Art

"…Thanks to his albums with George Russell, Charles Mingus, his own ‘New Jazz Conceptions’, and his exposure in the Miles Davis band, Bill Evans won the Down Beat International Critic’s Poll for the year 1958, in the New Star category.

The trumpeter Art Farmer and the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson were also New Star winner that year and Monte Kay’s (the new head of jazz at United Artists, ed.) idea was to make a sort of poll winners’ showcase. Art’s twin brother Addison joined on bass, and Dave Bailey (then with Art Farmer in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet) completed the group on drums.

The recording took place in the intimate atmosphere of the Nola Studios in New York, a vintage venue situated on top of Steinway Hall. At the end of the sessions, it was decided to issue the album under the trumpeter’s name as ‘Modern Art’.

With this quintessentially happy combo, the feeling of mutual admiration society at work came through strongly. Evans’s playing throughout was alert, exploratory, and clearly enunciated. On the leader’s blues, ‘Mox Nix’, the players’ fine credentials were displayed both singly and collectively, with Evans sparkling in rock ‘n’ roll mode on the head arrangement…”

Peter Pettinger in ‘Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings’, page 65/66

But, oooh, that beginning is so good! The piano is so not-Bill-Evans-like. The tune would sound nice as the opening of a Quentin Tarantino movie.

By the way, ‘Mox Nix’ is the American (slang)spelling of the German expression ‘macht nichts' (which means 'it doesn’t matter’) and it started being used in the US in the 1950’s by returning American soldiers who had been stationed in Germany during the post war period.

'Summertime' by Helen Merrill
Nearness Of You 

While autumn is here, I just wanted to give you the very last bit of summer.
Accompanied by Bill Evans on piano, George Russel on guitar, Oscar Pettiford on bass, Jo Jones (not Philly Joe, but Papa Jo, from The Count Basie Orchestra) on drums and Bobby Jaspar on flute (phew, what a band!), Helen gives one of the most beautiful performances of this evergreen.
The song was recorded February 21st, 1958.
Again, listen to this on your headphones and let her whispery, dreamy voice put you under her spell.