LP REVIEW: Bill Evans – Some Other Time — The Lost Session from the Black Forest

Bill Evans – Some Other Time — The Lost Session from the Black Forest
(Resonance HLP-9019. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Resonance Records are making a specialty of discovering fantastic unreleased recordings — the jazz equivalent of buried treasure or priceless archaeological finds — so much so that Resonance’s impresario Zev Feldman has been called the “Indiana Jones of jazz.” But this double LP really takes the cake — or, in this case, the Black Forest Gateau. It was recorded at the celebrated MPS studios, famed for the quality of their work, in Villingen, Germany. And the sessions took place just five days after the trio played their ground-breaking, and Grammy-winning, set at the Montreux Jazz Festival (15 June 1968). It sees Bill Evans performing with Jack DeJohnette on drums and Eddie Gomez on bass.

This represents one of the finest settings ever for Evans’s piano. Gomez would collaborate with him for over a decade, perhaps his longest lived musical partnership. And DeJohnette is a drummer who represents a fascinating balance between the avant-garde and the accessible. Certainly, he was an inspiring collaborator for Bill Evans. “He’s getting me off my musical ass,” said Evans at the time. But it proved to be a short lived collaboration. A few weeks after Montreux, Evans, Gomez and DeJohnette settled into a month-long residency at Ronnie Scott’s. In the middle of their run, Miles Davis dropped in and promptly poached DeJohnette. Thus this great trio came to a premature end. One result of which is that these fascinating and unique sessions represent the only studio recordings the trio ever made.

You Go to My Head is swiftly swinging, punctual and precise, breezy and supremely confident. The piano sound is well-defined, solid and characterful, and Gomez’s bass highly lyrical, segueing seamlessly from solo to support role. Evans dances all around the tune as DeJohnette keeps time in a tight circle of playing. Very Early has Evans taking tentative footsteps with the piano, as if wading into cool deep water. Then, once fully immersed, he begins slipping and sliding lithely on the scales. Eddie Gomez solos modestly but with authority, fusing with Evans in a lilting, sprightly but angular dialogue. DeJohnette plays in cymbal splashes and metronomic clicks with his sticks. The tune ends with an adroitly misty shimmer of drums.

On What Kind Of Fool Am I? the Gomez/Evans partnership is in full flow, skipping playfully through the melody together, each illuminating the other, and DeJohnette sits out to reveal what these two are capable of. But on My Funny Valentine DeJohnette proceeds to make himself felt on drums — this is one of the few records where the listener wishes the drummer was given more emphasis — as Evans plays importuning, urgent, ringing phrases in a rapid fire manner which he makes sound effortless. Evans keeps returning to the plaintive argument of the song until the piece dissolves in the final, soft gestures of the players. Baubles, Bangles and Beads has a cycling, tumbling exquisiteness. Evans’s piano is so elegantly propulsive and full of energy that Gomez’s bass seems to be propelled by it. DeJohnette’s drumming is strikingly minimal — he takes what is virtually a Count Basie approach, something which would only be possible with such virtuoso team mates. Listening to this trio after hearing a conventional jazz combo is to have the world turned upside down in a pleasant and refreshing way.

The first disc of this two record set represents the original album as conceived for release on MPS in 1968. That never saw the light of day because negotiations between producer/engineer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer and Bill Evans’s manager, Helen Keane, failed to come to fruition. It’s a treat and a privilege to have it presented to us now. What’s more, Zev Feldman and Resonance correctly judged that the out-takes from the sessions were of a sufficiently high standard to also deserve release. Hence the second record of the set. The album comes in a striking cover with some fine black and white photography and an extensively annotated booklet which includes an historical perspective by Feldman, notes by jazz journalist Marc Myers and new interviews with Jack DeJohnette and Eddie Gomez. Sadly, Bill Evans can only be represented by his music. But what music.

LINK: Some Other Time at Proper Music. Some Other Time — The Lost Session from the Black Forest is also available as a deluxe two-CD set.

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