Bill Evans

The Best of Bill Evans [Riverside]

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Unlike several of the best-of collections in Fantasy's extensive series, this one provides a useful focus upon the cornerstone of an artist's reputation -- Bill Evans' early sessions for Orrin Keepnews' Riverside label. Evans' most influential recordings stem from the seven-year period in which he recorded for Riverside, and although he would record much, much more right up until the week before his death in 1980, his evolution of style did not progress much further than what listeners have here. Moreover, Keepnews himself is the guide, selecting one or two tracks from each of the projects on which they worked, including a few that were not released until much later on the Milestone label. There are two takes of "Waltz for Debby" -- one a brief solo exposition, the other a fine workout with Cannonball Adderley from the latter's Know What I Mean? album -- otherwise, the collection proceeds in chronological order. Emotional pay dirt is hit with Evans' solo gymnopedie "Peace Piece," still as beautiful, fragile, and quirky as ever, drawing from Satie and all the way back to Chopin's Berceuse. The swinging bop side of Evans was much in abundance in the early days, particularly on "Woody 'N You," with fellow members of the Miles Davis rhythm section (Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones). Three tracks ("Blue in Green," "Nardis," and "My Romance") from Evans' most lauded trio -- with Scott LeFaro and Paul Motian -- mark the turning point of the disc, in which Evans' playing veers considerably inward and interplay blossoms between the components of the trio. Save for a swinging quintet session with Freddie Hubbard and Jim Hall ("You and the Night and the Music") and the concluding trio number "Swedish Pastry," it is the introspective Evans that dominates the rest of the disc. As a single-disc summary of the complete Riverside works box set, this will do very nicely.

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