The great Bill Evans Trio bassist Scott LaFaro died in a car accident in 1961 at the tender age of 25. The next year, pianist Evans regrouped with Chuck Israels replacing LaFaro on bass. The new trio recorded enough material for a pair of albums. Some of the sprightlier material ended up on How My Heart Sings! (1962), while eight slower tunes were issued that same year as Moon Beams. The latter has been remastered and expanded by Concord Music Group as part of the long-running Original Jazz Classics Remasters series.
The album is, like so much of Bill Evans’ output, a work of striking beauty. Two Evans originals bookend the album, the opening “Re: Person I Knew” and the closing “Very Early.” The latter became a standard, and with its gorgeous melody and changes, it’s not hard to see why. A faster alternate take, previously unreleased, has been included on this reissue. Also taken a little brisker is the alternate take of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” the tune which comes closest to being this album’s title track. The album version features some of Evans’ most brilliant piano soloing, with ultra-subtle, supportive drumming by Paul Motian.
Speaking of Motian, his drumming is described in Joe Goldberg’s original liner notes as “more felt than heard.” He’s not kidding. Listen to the extraordinarily gentle performance that Motian turns in on the opening couple minutes (and closing minute or so) of “It Might as Well Be Spring.” His control is masterful, delivering only what the tune needs. He is also notably restrained, allowing Evans piano to remain the center of attention, on two versions of “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” One is on the album proper, while an alternate take is included as another previously unreleased bonus track.
The remastered Moon Beams sounds wonderfully fresh, hardly betraying its age of 50 years. The woman on the album cover is none other than Nico, a few years prior to her experience with The Velvet Underground. In addition to the original liner notes, jazz journalist Doug Ramsey has contributed a brand new essay for this reissue.