Just about all Bill Evans' material is worth checking out. He was one of the most influential of the 1950s and 1960s jazz pianists, and his style is still being imitated today. While he wrote a number of well-known jazz classics, it was his improvisational skill with pop songs and their melodies that made him unique.
He began his career during the 1950s as a sideman for such jazz musicians as Charles Mingus, Tony Scott, and Art Farmer. He began releasing his own albums during 1956 and continued to issue material until his death in 1980.
His music now returns as part of the Concord Music Group’s Definitive Series. The 25 tracks deal with two specific periods of his career. His most creative period was his time with the Riverside label, 1956-1962, and disc one presents much of his key work for the label. The second disc primarily focuses upon his time with the Fantasy label, 1973-1977. The 1970s find a mature artist who may not have been as creative as during the early part of his career, but was still able to produce an interesting body of work. The missing decade was spent with the Verve label, which was much more diverse and experimental than what proceeded and followed it.
There are a number of highlights from his Riverside years. “Speak Low” was taken from his first album, which sold less than 1000 copies at the time of its release. It catches him at the beginning of his development as a jazz pianist of note as he was leaving the be-bop style behind. “Peace Piece” was an original composition and is presented without accompaniment. The best way to become acquainted with a jazz pianist is to hear him play solo. It was some of the most free form playing of his career as the music builds upon a series of scales.