Bill Evans Trio
While jazz explored just about every instrument except the kazoo and grind organ, everyone picked something to specialize and with Bill Evans, it’s the piano. One of the innovators of bebop, he eventually abandoned the chord-free structure and returned to a sound that relied on classic Russian composition and variants of pop standards. This gives him a delicate balance between the challenging structure of modern jazz and the more popular need for identifiable tunes. That is, you can consider the Bill Evans Trio “romantic.” With nothing so crass as a vocal, the music is calm and smooth, and points toward what would derisively be known as “easy listening” by the time the ’70s rolled around.
You can pick up hummable melodies in “How Deep Is The Ocean?” and “I Wish I Knew.” Behind the piano, cymbal brushes dominate Paul Motian’s actual drum strokes while Scott LaFaro emphasizes the rhythm on stand-up bass. “The Boy Next Door” is new to this album — it physically didn’t fit onto the old microgroove stereo LP of 1960. A solid song, it starts with a milling about of musical concepts, and then picks a direction and heads out confidently. That’s Evans’ style — he knows where he’s headed, but you might not pick out the direction until a ways into the song. But his flusters are not real; he’s not improvising so much as laying a foundation for the composition before he applies the paint on paper. The original album cover art shows Evans looking like a college professor, seated in front of a piano intensely scribbling on staff paper. There’s a sense of capturing his moment of creation in that old black and white, and in the new cover art he stares deeply into your eyes, as if to say “You understand. I know you understand.” That’s confidence.
Concord Music: www.concordmusicgroup.com