Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #7

Bill Evans, Portrait in Jazz (1959).  Trying to describe Bill Evans reminds me of the line attributed to Martin Mull (and sometimes to Elvis Costello) that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."  You've really just got to hear him -- in a trio setting or with Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Jim Hall, or even accompanying Tony Bennett.  He is often considered the most influential post-WWII jazz pianist with "his use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, and trademark rhythmically independent, 'singing' melodic lines."  The obvious pick for the greatest Bill Evans album is the legendary Village Vanguard Recordings of 1961, recently released as a complete box set.  But I don't want to be obvious, so instead I'm going with Portrait in Jazz, which comprised the same trio (Scott LeFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums) as on the later Village Vanguard sessions.  Portrait in Jazz includes mostly standards, but as one critic said, "the influential interpretations were far from routine or predictable at the time . . .  and [the trio's] versions of such tunes as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "When I Fall in Love," and "Someday My Prince Will Come" are full of subtle and surprising creativity.  A gem."  [Related posts: Really Great Jazz Albums #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6]

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