The late 1960s proved to be a creative period for Bill Evans who took time to recover from the devastating loss of bassist Scott La Faro in his classic piano trio with Paul Motian. A stunning live performance at Montreux Jazz Festival was the harbinger of a new period in Evans’ career with Mexican Eddie Gomez a fine replacement for La Faro who was a gifted enough individual to be assessed on his own merits. However, what the listener and even aficionado could not have taken into consideration is that Bill Evans recorded a series of trio, duet and occasional solo recordings in Bavaria for the MPS label that were never originally released. They contain examples of Evans’ in superlative form, re-exploring both the American songbook and breathing new life into his own compositions. In some cases, the same pieces are interpreted in duo and trio formats and being able to hear these sides for the very first time in optimum quality sound is little short of a gift from heaven.
Accompanying Evans in this endeavour are bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack de Johnette and it is the participation of the latter that will raise a few eyebrows among Evans cognoscenti. not least because of the drummer’s subsequent lengthy tenure with the Keith Jarrett piano trio. Listeners can marvel at the duo and trio versions of, ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads’, with the gentler duet interpretation building in intensity and Evans at his most delicate. Of Evans own pieces, ‘Turn out the stars’ has proven to be an evergreen composition and this gorgeous rendition does little to diminish one’s appreciation. Elsewhere, both Evans and Gomez engage in fine interplay on ‘I’ll remember April’, with the bassist prominent. The varying of tempi within a given piece is a constant attraction and illustrated to perfection on ‘Green Dolphin Street’ that starts slowly and develops into an infectious mid-tempo number.
As one might expect from previous Resonance re-issues, no stone has been left unturned in the attention to detail with a sumptuous inner sleeve that contains informative interviews with de Johnette and Gomez, and an incisive historical overview from Marc Myers. An outstanding release that immediately has to be counted among Bill Evans finest output from the 1960s.