Bill Evans's Finest Hour represents a number of choice tidbits recorded by the pianist between 1958 and 1970 for Verve. The settings of these recordings range between the intricate trio work he became so identified with to, in at least one instance, full orchestration. While Evans is certainly capable of bopping with the best on songs like "Luck Be a Lady" and "I Should Care," his style glimmers more distinctly on quieter numbers. The fragile "Elsa" and subtle "Spring Is Here" allow him to slowly, though deliberately, develop his impressionistic piano lines. Sensitive accompaniment by drummer Paul Motian and bassists Gary Peacock and Chuck Israels also adds a rich dynamic to these cuts. The recording of "I Loves You, Porgy" at the Montreux Jazz Festival is even more low key and bare, featuring Evans unaccompanied. These somber ballads, emotive and filled with slight shadings, work beautifully. It is almost as though the listener is eavesdropping as the pianist engages in late-night conversations with himself. Evans plays Latin jazz on two somewhat uncharacteristic tracks, "Jazz Samba" and "The Dolphin --After," and overdubs two other pianos on the moody "Spartacus Love Theme." Bill Evans's Finest Hour presents a good overview for those unfamiliar with the great pianist's music. The disc will also offer the listener a starting point to delve further into the delicate, lovely world of Bill Evans.
Bill Evans's Finest Hour Review
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.