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Bill Evans: The Complete Bill Evans on Verve

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The big news about The Complete Bill Evans on Verve is not that it is complete, however important it is to have under one (tin) roof the pianist’s enormous output for the label. Nor is the big news the odd packaging, although the package demands comment. The big news is that the box contains 31 previously unissued tracks of Evans with Philly Joe Jones and Eddie Gomez at the Village Vanguard and 34 with Larry Bunker and Chuck Israels at the Trident Club.

Bud Powell and Max Roach, Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey, Evans and Philly Joe; magic resulted from those relationships of pianists and drummers. The joy that Evans and Jones found in making music together suffuses the three CDs worth of music they taped with Gomez at the Vanguard on two nights in the summer of 1967. Five versions of “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” comprise a chronicle of their affinity as they trade four-bar and then two-bar phrases in controlled outbursts of energy, humor and passion. It is a routine, but a routine built on spontaneity and surprise. There are five cuts of “G Waltz,” five of “Emily,” four of “California, Here I Come,” four of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” four of “Alfie” and several tunes Evans rarely played, including “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe,” all fresh and full of adventure in the presence of the rapt Vanguard audience. Gomez, a year into his eleven-year tenure and getting the hang of Evans’ music, loosens up and matches Jones’ drive. These tracks and 25 of the Evans-Jones-Gomez trio from the same period in Fantasy’s “Secret Sessions” box constitute an archive of one of the great jazz partnerships.

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