In a 2011 Fresh Air interview with Bill Evans’ longtime drummer Paul Motian, Terry Gross points out that for many critics the distinguishing characteristic of the Bill Evans Trio was the musicians’ willingness to share the stage. Most such trios featured the piano. Bass and drums were simply supporting characters. Not the Evans trio. These musicians were equals and they played music that soared over the sum of its parts. Motian, Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro were something special together and you could hear it in their music.
So it is not strange that when LaFaro died in a 1961 auto accident, Evans fell into a state of depression. It took well into the next year before he was emotionally ready to move on with another bassist, but move on he did. In the spring of 1962 he and Motian began working with Chuck Israels, first recording as a rhythm section for a Herbie Mann album, and then resurrecting the Bill Evans Trio for a session for Riverside Records.
Producer Orrin Keepnews wanted an album of ballads, but fearful that lengthy sessions limited to recording ballads might drain all their energy, he decided to have the trio perform a mixed bag of material, take out the ballads for one album, and use the other tunes for a second album. The ballads album entitled Moonbeams was released first, and the uptempo album How My Heart Sings! followed. A remastered edition of Moonbeams was released by Concord Music Group last year, and now happily it is following that up on July 23 with the reissue of the second of the albums. You can never have too much Bill Evans.
The current disc includes the eight tunes from the original album plus three bonus tracks, two of which are previously unreleased. The album takes its title from an Earl Zindars song. Zindars, who composed classical music as well as jazz tunes, was a favorite of Evans. “How My Heart Sings!” has a gorgeous melody and the trio’s treatment sets the tone for the rest of the album. They do a killer version of the Gershwin classic “Summertime” to begin the album’s “B” side, which takes the well-known tune in a fresh direction.
There are two takes of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” which really swings in Evans’ hands. His treatment makes a nice contrast with what Brubeck does with it. There are three original Evans compositions: “Walkin’ Up,” “34 Skidoo,” and “Show-Type Tune.” All three were new to Motian and Israels, who were challenged to see how they would handle the unfamiliar material. Ultimately their inclusion is a sign of the pianist’s faith in their abilities. “I Should Care” and “Ev’rything I Love” fill out the set.
In Chuck Israels, the trio had found its new bassist. Between Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings!, that much was clear. How My Heart Sings! shows the Blill Evan Trio once again at the top of their game.