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Bill Evans: Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (Resonance)

Review of live album by legendary pianist and his trio with Eddie Gomez & Jack DeJohnette

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Cover of Bill Evans Another Time album

With so many previously unissued trio recordings by Bill Evans crowding shelves and “the cloud,” it’s fair to ask whether another archival discovery adds anything of real significance to the piano icon’s legacy—particularly since the latest, Another Time: The Hilversum Concert, comes on the heels of two other Resonance sets from 1968, Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate and Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest, as well as Fantasy’s On a Monday Evening, from 1976.

The answer, in this case, is a decided yes, for completists and non-completists alike. Aside from Verve’s Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which won a Grammy in 1969, and a few rarities, Some Other Time and Another Time are the only recordings to document Evans’ short-lived trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette. The young drummer, who had just left the Charles Lloyd Quartet, would soon move on to Miles Davis’ band. More important, you have to dig deep into the Evans canon to find a set as cutting and concise as Another Time. Recorded before a studio audience in the North Holland town of Hilversum (Some Other Time, recorded two days earlier in Germany, is an unattended studio effort), it shows off a side of Evans with which some listeners may not be familiar—or familiar enough.

Photo of Bill Evans
Bill Evans (photo courtesy of Rob Rijineke)

If we had a penny for every time Evans’ playing has been reduced to “lyrical,” we would be able to buy a house full of Steinways. While few artists have equaled the heightened romanticism he brought to tunes such as his gorgeous waltz “Emily,” featured here, he was also capable of the most propulsive, hard-nosed swing. Tearing through “Embraceable You” and the Broadway classic “Who Can I Turn To?”—two of the last tunes you would expect to hear as uptempo vehicles—he thumbs his nose at typecasting, speeding through traffic with the hard twists and turns of his hero Bud Powell.

The rendition here of “Nardis,” long a litmus test for Evans’ various trios, also reveals the kinetic strength of his playing. In 1980, shortly before his death, he mined the composition—credited to his Kind of Blue boss Miles Davis but said to be composed by Evans—for deep, drawn-out, probing reflections. Those epic performances, recorded at the Village Vanguard and included on the 1996 box set Turn Out the Stars, are masterpieces of tension and release, building and building to an explosive statement of the theme. At Hilversum, he gets to the melody in brusque fashion, giving it a tidy spin before generously yielding the spotlight to DeJohnette, whose handsomely textured strokes and the sheer variety of his melodic effects reveal a debt to New Orleans great Ed Blackwell.

Evans clearly thrives on the newness of this band, which does not have the interactive brilliance of his groundbreaking trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian but boasts an easygoing chemistry of its own. DeJohnette’s springy vitality levitates Evans even as the sonic weight of Gomez grounds the attack. Gomez, who came on board in 1966, says in the liner notes that Evans had to talk him into playing his extended solo on “Embraceable You.” We’re happy he followed orders. With its thrumming and scampering brilliance, Gomez’s playing has an animated 3-D quality.

Gomez’s resounding tones sometimes steal a bit too much focus from stage left, and DeJohnette’s drumming could be brought forward a bit in the mix. But the vibrancy of the trio carries the day, and, in a way, the subtle imbalances make the recording more vivid than technically cleaner live recordings: You feel like you’re there. First released on vinyl last spring for Record Store Day, Another Time lives up to the classy Resonance label’s promise of exceptional sound.

The album runs only 47 minutes, short by today’s standards, but duplicates only three songs from the two-disc Some Other Time. (“Who Can I Turn To?” proves a great swap for “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Alfie” is a nice added bonus.) The set is so crisply paced and hangs together so well that the running time seems just right. Far from being more icing on Evans’ discography, Another Time is another cherry that’s well worth picking.

Listen and buy Another Time album by Bill Evans on iTunes/Apple Music.

Originally Published