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Bill Evans: Homecoming

Who says you can’t go home again? On November 6, 1979, pianist Bill Evans proved otherwise in a transcendent return to his alma mater, Southeastern Louisiana College. Playing the hall in which he had performed his senior recital in 1950 with the likes of Bach and Beethoven, Evans, this time, and to the obvious delight of a full house packed with friends and former teachers, focused his inspired lyricism on favorite standards (“But Beautiful” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”) and originals (“Re: Person I Knew,” “Laurie” and “Turn Out the Stars”).

At the height of his improvisational powers, and helming one of his best trios (with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera), Evans, given his reputation for brooding introspection, is downright exuberant. Even in his limning of “I Loves You, Porgy,” there’s a sense of discovery, a savoring of musical frontiers yet to be crossed, and, in the midst of the ballad, a spirited fantasia awash with bright colors and sparkling melodies. There’s also a brief interview in which the pianist sounds an upbeat note about his education, his career, and, indeed, his life. A welcome, and essential, addition to the Evans discography.

Originally Published