Bill Evans

The Best of Bill Evans Live on Verve

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While on the surface it may seem like a quixotic task to choose a single disc as a sampler for something like Verve's elephantine 18-disc The Complete Bill Evans On Verve box, in this specialized case, the concept does work. Evans' primary live vehicle was the piano trio, with the post-bop approach and format rarely varied, and this collection of mid-'60s tracks drawn from four live albums catches an intelligent cross-section of his usual palette of standards with a handful of originals thrown in. Among the best choices are a particularly well-structured "Turn Out the Stars" from the Village Vanguard from 1967 (drummer Philly Joe Jones could light an especially hot fire underneath Evans) and a lovely solo "I Loves You Porgy" from Montreux. There is also a good balance between introspection and the lesser-known yet undeniably swinging side of Evans. The catholic-minded among us, though, can do without the outlandish lead sentence of the booklet notes -- "Bill Evans played piano better than anyone" -- which, despite the disclaimer further down the page, is all too typical of a lot of uncritical writing about Evans these days.

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