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Bill Evans: Momentum

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This two-CD set is a considerable emotional distance from the definitive and introspective Bill Evans Trio heard on the revered Sunday at the Village Vanguard from 1961. Recorded 11 years later at a concert in Groningen, the Netherlands, Momentum proceeds with, well, aggressive momentum, especially in the playing of bassist Eddie Gomez. This version of the trio, with drummer Marty Morell, had been together for three and a half years at this time.

While there are lovely, rhapsodic, harmonically rich melody expositions by Evans (“Elsa,” “Turn Out the Stars,” “Emily,” “Who Can I Turn To?,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”), there are also transitions to hard-swinging tempos with the trio pushing the front edge of the beat. (This is an observation and not a criticism.) Gomez responds to Evans with a counterpoint of scurried high-register runs, taut, telegraphed accents, skip-walking lines, sudden low-note thumps and pounding swing. The conversational interplay among piano, bass and drums represents the maturation of the conversational concept first envisioned by Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian in the 1961 group.

LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step,” faster than the ’61 Vanguard version, is the high point of this set. Gomez plays parts of the melody with Evans and Morell kicks in with a carefree, loose feel to propel the time: This cut is definitely an example of the joy of cooking. Morell solos here and on “My Romance,” and you realize how fit he was for this group-i.e., how sensitive he was to the ensemble and how ingenious he was as a soloist. Judging by this recording, this night in the life of the Bill Evans Trio was a happy one.

Originally Published