Tony Scott: At Last

Bill Evans, in splendid form in these 1959 recordings, was on his way to becoming the most influential young pianist in jazz. He may be the primary object of interest in this music captured at the Show Palace in New York that August. The Tony Scott Quartet, however, was a tight working band in which Evans, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Pete LaRoca supported the clarinetist as he was edging into the territory of free playing. In places, Scott shows the strain of pushing the envelope, but he is always interesting. Never an imitator, here he nonetheless occasionally calls to mind another confirmed individualist, Pee Wee Russell.

Evans, still with the time imperatives and longs lines of Lennie Tristano and Bud Powell very much in mind, was obsessed with rhythm. These are some of the hardest-swinging recorded examples of his work from the late ’50s. In his solos and his propulsive accompaniments, his swing is as irresistible as are his melodic and harmonic invention. To concentrate on the displacements in his comping behind Scott is to be astounded at the young Evans’ rhythmic resourcefulness and inspiration. “My Melancholy Baby” is a prime example, “Walkin'” another. Garrison, LaRoca and Evans played off one another beautifully. The sound quality is better than average for ad hoc club recording. Everyone is clearly audible and clearly worth hearing. These performances showed up for a short time on LP in the early 1980s, then sank with barely a trace. They are essential documents of a first-rate group and of an important period in the development of Bill Evans, and 32 Records deserves commendation for making them available.