Bill Evans Trio:
Bill Evans (piano); Scott LaFaro (bass); Paul Motian (drums). Recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, New York, New York on December 28, 1959. Originally released on Riverside (1162).
1. Come Rain Or Come Shine 2. Autumn Leaves - (take 1) 3. Autumn Leaves - (mono, bonus track) 4. Witchcraft 5. When I Fall In Love 6. Peri's Scope 7. What Is This Thing Called Love? 8. Spring Is Here 9. Someday My Prince Will Come 10. Blue In Green - (take 3) 11. Blue In Green - (take 2, bonus track)
"A few months to set things up and the trio was ready for its first recording session. Evans had met LaFaro at an audition for Chet Baker a couple of years earlier. He had not been very favorably impressed at the time by LaFaro's rather effusive, show-offish nature. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1936, he was, after all, still young. But when the two began to work together with Motian, Evans' respect for the 23-year-old bass player grew rapidly. “He and Paul and I agreed without speaking a word about the type of freedom and responsibility we wanted to bring to bear upon the music, to get the development we wanted without putting repressive restrictions upon ourselves,” Evans himself reported.
“in a classical composition you don’t hear a part remain stagnant until it becomes a solo. There are transitional development passages. A voice begins to be heard more and more and finally breaks into prominence;” and, as if to prevent a possibly too sharp break with tradition, he added: “Especially, I want my work - and the trio's if possible to sing. I want to play what I like to hear. I am not going to be strange or new just to be strange or new. If what I do grows that way naturally, that'll be OK. But it must have that wonderful feeling of singing.”
After Kind Of Blue, Evans recorded with Lee Konitz and Jimmy Giuffre, took part in the recording of John Lewis' sound track for Robert Wise's film Odds Against Tomorrow, and recorded many times with Tony Scott. After one more recording with Lee Konitz’s tentette in October, Bill finally got into the recording studio with LaFaro and Motian on December 28th 1959. Evans, at slightly more than thirty years old, was about to begin surely the most important musical adventure of his entire artistic career.
Portrait In Jazz [Riverside RLP-1161; OJCCD 088-2] was the first of four albums that the trio were to make - a limited production but of the highest artistic quality, which was to influence whole generations of jazz musicians all over the world. The trio's innovative intentions were only partially carried out in Portrait In Jazz. Evans was aware, as were his partners, that “nobody at that time was 'opening up music like they were, letting the music originate from a beat that was more implied than explicit.” He had a gift for shaping music and a capacity to make every part of the improvisation spring consequentially from the previous one: an approach that the pianist asked his partners to extend to the total form of the piece. When it worked, when the three of them played like one single individual entity, the result was breathtaking. Autumn Leaves (second version) is an example of that success, as is What Is This Thing Called Love. Here the trio offers a glimpse into some completely new mechanisms: like when Motian ventures into audacious multi-rhythmical initiatives, with LaFaro strongly and profoundly accenting the pulse; or when, in the same piece, they experiment with the dynamic contrast between duet (Evans and LaFaro dialoguing while Motian stays silent) and fully active trio.
Portrait In Jazz contains some interpretive peaks that highlight Evans' more meditative and lyrical side and the profundity of what he had to say: Spring Is Here, above all. According to Wilfrid Mellers this piece retains the sound mood of Miles Davis. Hc observes that Evans' ability “to make melodic lines ‘speak’ is of extraordinary subtlety... and always the sensuousness leads not to passivity but to growth,” adding that on the album’s fast pieces “the rhythm zest provokes the song.” On Spring Is Here Evans’ piano breathes, and his emotion makes the instrument vibrate with a gentle, resonant sonority - as always, the consequence of the nature of the musical narration that he is improvising and never mere decoration or narcissism. Through a simple song, Evans talks about a part of himself, and the piano is his voice.
The performances on Portrait In Jazz are uneven from the point of view of the "simultaneous improvisation" approach, which had not yet developed at the time. The artistic rendition also doesn't always maintain the same level. Evans would later say, for instance, that the version of When Fall In Love on this album was one of the most incoherent and disconnected that he had ever recorded; and, in effect, upon careful listening, one discovers here and there some empty, somewhat ingenuous areas in the construction of the solo. Evans was notoriously demanding with himself and here he recognized some gaps in the logic of the solo that couldn't help but bother him.
The opposite was true for Peri’s Scope (in one of the plays on words which he loved to indulge himself in, Evans dedicated the song to Peri Cousins, his girlfriend at the time). The tune is a little masterpiece in improvisational compactness. There is no trace of evident interplay between the musicians, at least in the sense of a contrapuntal or melodic dialogue, but there is certainly a lot of swing and a great elegance here. Evans converses with himself; his solo an admirable example of that logical structuring and consequentiality, both main features and his principle objective in music. LaFaro, and Motian accompany Evans in the usual 4/4 time, but with such energy and joy, along with enormous precision, that a kind of precious carpet is woven upon which Evans' rhythmic inner feeling comfortably reclines. Evans displays a very innovative use of the left hand, which seems to move in perfect tandem with that of Motian playing the snare drum. This creates an imaginative, cheerful rhythmical counterpoint to the phrases of his right hand. So, in a little more than three minutes Peri’s Scope leaves an impression of vitality and pleasure in making music not frequently matched in Evans' musical production. In this luminous gem he seems to get back a little of that pleasure of carefree play rarely perceptible in his performances - the piece almost smiles.
Finally, in terms of Evans' trio work, Blue In Green should not be forgotten. This is the piece for which Evans had claimed paternity and which, for incomprehensible reasons, was and continues to be attributed to Davis. [emphasis mine]. Actually, Miles, before the Kind Of Blue session, had only given Evans the first two chords, from which the pianist spun the entire composition. In any case, in this trio version of the tune, he doubles the time twice, allowing LaFaro to move completely autonomously, both melodically and rhythmically. Apart from this number, however, the general atmosphere of the album does not sound as revolutionary as the trio's live performances a year and a half later at the Village Vanguard would. More than a year were to pass between the trio's first and second recordings."
(Bill Evans: Ritratto d’artista con pianoforte/Bill Evans: The Pianist as an Artist.Enrico Pieranunzi, Rome 1999, Stampa Alternativa)(thanks http://jazzprofiles.blogspot.com !!!)