Review : Bill Evans - Live at ARt D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate
PopmattersWith the glut of live jazz recordings that get pushed on us—official and otherwise—it’s easy to get skeptical about new concert albums. Sets of questionable fidelity get patched together and thrown out to the jazz crowd and, all too often, these sets can be disappointing even if they are rare or the sets are full of obscure tunes or whatever other minor detail peaks our curiousity. When you’re dealing with someone like Bill Evans, who has two classic live records—Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby—it’s even harder to believe that a new two-disc live set—in this case Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate—is a worthwhile addition to your collection.
And yet, surprisingly, it is. This is due, in part if not whole, to sound engineer George Klabin. Klabin was only 22 when he recorded these two sets on October 23, 1968—both part of a four-week residence Evans did at Top of the Gate, an upstairs venue attached to Greenwich’s legendary Village Gate—and that young man, rather than setting up one mic on stage or in the back of the room, instead mic’d each performer. Bill Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Marty Morell all got their own mics, and the set was mixed live, so the fidelity here truly is remarkable. What you get here is not just clarity, but also intimacy, you get the feel for what it might be like to be up close, watching Evans hunched over his piano, listening close to the keys, as he knocked out bright, deeply felt versions of what have mostly become classics.
Of course, this wouldn’t matter if the trio wasn’t at the top of its game. This isn’t the first, or even the second, of Evans’s trios, and it isn’t nearly as famous as his original line-up with Scott Lofaro and Paul Motian. Still, though, Gomez and Morell play damn well all over this set. For one, they more than keep up with Evans’s percussive, sprinting run of notes, his quick phrasings on the keys, and his uncanny shifts in mood and tempo. They can go from the upbeat, swinging pluck of “Yesterday” to the overcast, moody space of “Round Midnight” without missing a beat. Not only that, but both players are also given a chance to stretch out and solo and they add an off-kilter immediacy to the proceedings. You can feel them intuiting the songs as they go. These aren’t memorized tunes, they are felt deep in the blood....full text
AllaboutjazzWhy is pianist Bill Evans so important to jazz? it is simple: every pianist to hear and perform after him was influenced by him. Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson may have been technically more brilliant and extroverted, but it took first Bud Powell and then Evans to turn the creative tables toward the muted and introverted, thereby beginning a jazz piano cultural revolution that continues to this day. Evans had an almost painfully personal style that, like late-period Art Pepper, bared naked his troubled soul in exquisite detail.
This never-before-released sides from Resonance Records, Live At Art D'Lugoff's Top of The Gate, is notable for having a couple of firsts: it's the first-ever documented Evans trio recordings of "My Funny Valentine" and "Yesterdays," while "Witchcraft" is Evans' only recording of this Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh song, aside from the 1959 studio version appearing on Portrait in Jazz (Riverside).
It is "My Funny Valentine," however, that shines most brightly. A ballad, always fertile territory for Evans' inward thinking, it is treated with an anathema hard swing by the normally quiet and thoughtful pianist. Evans tries to fool with an impressionistic introduction that, in time, fully dissembles into a full-fledged show tune for jazz piano trio. Bassist Eddie Gomez, perhaps Evans' greatest bass collaborator after the tragic loss of Scott LaFaro, plays his level best, guiding Evans, while drummer Marty Morell watches the tempo road signs....full text
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