Among the latest installments of Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Classics Remasters series are two Bill Evans-related albums, both originally released in 1961. On one, Evans was the leader. On the other, he provided accompaniment for saxophone great Cannonball Adderley. Both albums sound fantastic and are augmented by previously unreleased material.
Bill Evans Trio – Explorations
Less than six months after Explorations was recorded, bassist Scott LaFaro died, the victim of a car crash. Though only 25 years old at the time of his death, his indelible imprint is recognized in the jazz world to this day. LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian were the rhythm section in pianist Bill Evans’ celebrated trio.
There are no Evans originals here. These are “explorations” of other people’s compositions. The trio interplay is dazzling, with each musician offering an essential component.
A meditative reading of Miles Davis’ “Nardis” features a hypnotic extended bass solo by LaFaro. Motian’s finest moment comes with his solo near the end of “Sweet and Lovely,” the closing tune on the original album. In addition to two previously released bonus tracks (including one, “The Boy Next Door,” not found on the original album), this latest reissue includes a pair of previously unreleased cuts. First up is an alternate take of Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean?” that subtly swings a bit more than the album cut. Closing out the disc is an alternate version of “I Wish I Knew,” clocking in at about a half minute longer than the official take.
Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans – Know What I Mean?
The sweet-toned alto sax of Cannonball Adderley leads the cool stylings of Bill Evans’ piano on Know What I Mean? On loan from The Modern Jazz Quartet was the rhythm section of Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums. It’s a deeply satisfying combination, with the rhythm section providing mostly subtle support. Evans’ signature composition, “Waltz for Debby,” leads off, with Adderley offering a beautiful reading of the melody. Perhaps the finest moment is the mournful Gordon Jenkins ballad “Goodbye.” Both Adderley and Evans dig deep into this one, each coming up with remarkably emotional solos.
On the up-tempo side, Gershwin’s “Who Cares?” gets a lively workout. The tune repeats as a bonus track, carried over from a previous reissue. Another Evans original, the title tune, also appears twice, with the second time as another previously released bonus track. Take 12 of “Know What I Mean?” runs a full two minutes longer than the album version. A previously unreleased take of Clifford Jordan’s “Toy” adds value to this reissue.
Each of these two reissues includes a simple but informative booklet featuring both a newly written essay and the original liner notes. Kudos to Original Jazz Classics Remasters for making sure these albums not only stay in print, but sound as good as possible.