Personnel: Bill Evans (piano); Paul Motian (drums).
Liner Note Author: Neil Tesser.
This compilation from Concord compiles 11 tracks from four Bill Evans Trio albums recorded between 1959 and 1961: Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, and the live Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Vanguard. The lineup, of course, is Evans' classic trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. While this may be merely another attempt by the label to milk Riverside's catalog, there is a very practical purpose for such a compilation, and that argument is put forth in Neil Tesser's liner notes: that this trio used Evans' "trialog" system to "prefigure a change in the very fabric of jazz." In Evans' estimation, the trialog was a way to look at new conceptions and possibilities for the piano trio. Instead of the pianist merely leading a supporting rhythm section, he would in fact be one of three equal players in an ongoing musical conversation; he would be informed by the other two members, and be free to follow them as well as lead. The members of this trio cover a wide patch of ground, not only in their ability to push the music further into an intimate creative conversation, but to free themselves, at least to a great degree, of the burden of history. The evidence is abundant in the originals such as LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," Evans' "Waltz for Debby," and even "Blue in Green," co-composed with Miles Davis. Speaking of Davis, both "Nardis" and "Solar" are here as well. Arguably, the evidence that the trialog can shift meaning and logic in jazz is best borne out by the interpretation of standards such as "Autumn Leaves," "My Foolish Heart," "What Is This Thing Called Love?," and George Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now." Here, the nature of song emerges not from the harmonic changes employed by the pianist, but from the collective interaction of the trio itself. While Evans scholars and hardcore fans don't need to be reminded of the trio's contribution, there are still many listeners, mostly younger, who are seeking an introduction to Evans' music outside of his contribution to Kind of Blue. The Very Best of the Bill Evans Trio provides an excellent entry point for a budget price. ~ Thom Jurek
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