Resonance's Bill Evans RSD "Double Play"

For an artist who passed away at a relatively young age (51) Bill Evans left a rich and varied recorded legacy—more music on disc than even the most dedicated Evans fan could possibly consume, yet more rare and often precious gems continue to be discovered and released, particularly by Resonance Records, whose Co-President Zev Feldman is a huge Evans fan.

Evans’s prodigious recorded output is easily explained. Unlike many if not most jazz artists, Evans preferred studio solitude to playing in noisy clubs, though of course some of his most treasured recordings were live performances and I’m sure I don’t have to name them for most analogPlanet readers.

These two live Buenos Aires, Argentina recordings, Morning Glory from 1973, and Inner Spirit from 1979—less than a year before his death—came to Feldman’s attention four years ago through music journalist Roque De Pietro who put him in touch with recording engineer Carlos Melero who was in possession of both tapes.

The recordings had been bootlegged with poor sound and no royalties paid to the musicians and their families. Resonance, of course, honors the musicians and their families and pays royalties, and always goes all out to tell the back stories, which in this case are fascinating and useful for any Evans fan. Sadly, while prepping these albums for release, both engineer Melero and photographer Tito Villalba who documented both tours and provided photos, passed away.

Morning Glory the title of the album documenting the June 24th, 1973 concert at the Teatro Gran Rex—a 2500 seat former movie theater opened in 1937—featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morrell took place on a cold Sunday morning at 10:00 A.M.—something you’d not know listening to the performance (thought the album title is a hint), which opens with Evan’s contemplative “Re: Person I Knew” (an anagram of producer Orrin Keepnews), which first appeared on the Riverside album Moon Beams. With the exception of Evan’s “Waltz For Debby” and “T.T.T.” the set consisted of mostly bright covers Evans had regularly performed live and on studio recordings. The group had recently returned from a successful tour of Japan that of course yielded a live album (The Tokyo Concert), and was in high spirits. Plus Evans had kicked his drug habit and was on Methadone and about to get married. The encore was a solo performance of “My Foolish Heart.”

Engineer Melero concealed his Revox A-77 and as he recalls in the notes, he had time to ask for permission to record show but didn’t. Afterwards Evan’s long time manager Helen Keane asked for a chrome tape cassette copy. Melero use a pair of Neumann U87s for the piano (a Steinway concert grand), an AKG dual capsule D224E for the bass and for the drums a pair of AKG C451Es. Melero mixed through a Studer-Revox C279, which he told journalist Roque Di Pietro in 2008 “…to this day, I mourn the loss of.”

The tapes required “sound restoration” by George Klabin and Fran Gala, Resonance’s go-to tech team and Bernie Grundman cut lacquers from their high-resolution digital files. Unlike some Resonance releases that are of great musical interest but must sonically be “listened through” (such Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott’s recorded by drummer Jack DeJohnette), the mix here is excellent as you might expect from the above description and the mono mix sounds pleasing with good depth provided by the hall acoustic.

For Bill Evans devotees the 12x12 accompanying booklet alone is almost worth the purchase price, with great photos and fascinating annotation including reminiscences from both Gomez and Morrell plus . The booklet’s full sized color cover photo of a smiling, happy Evans is unlike any I’ve ever seen of him.

Inner Spirit is the one to have if you’re only considering buying one. The unfamiliar intro to the opener, the familiar “Stella By Starlight”, will surely clue Evans fans into knowing they are about to hear a very different, edgier Bill Evans.

He was in terrible physical condition and would be gone less than a year later, but his strong, probing playing does not reflect that. A glitch in the annotation by WSJ columnist Marc Myers has Evans playing next Gary McFarland’s “Gary’s Theme”, but that’s not here (unless it’s on the CD version and was cut on the 2 LP set to save space?).

Some readers appreciate personal stories leaking into this kind of coverage so I’ll pause here for one: my mother’s decorator’s daughter married Gary McFarland. This was around 1962 or 1963 and I’d bought McFarland’s Verve album Big Band Bossa Nova and really enjoyed his innovative arrangements. My mother didn’t know that, but she was telling my father all about the “tragedy” at the dinner table: “What a schlimazel (Yiddish for tragedy)! The daughter just married some goy (Christian), an Irishman noch (yet), a musician, I don’t know how he’s going to make a living, he’s got one eye pointing one way, one eye pointing the other way….” I was 15 or 16 and it confirmed what I was beginning to think about where I was brought up. A few years later my father broke a Modern Jazz Quartet record over my head and that doubly confirmed it.

Evans was in poor health, the audience turnout was low, he’d just separated from his wife and even if you knew none of that, you’d know you were hearing a very different pianist not trying to put a spring in his musical step. Notes cascade downward, he’s hitting the keys harder, the dynamic shifts are more pronounced, the silences between notes more profound. This performance presents a Bill Evans every Evans fan needs to hear. Unlike the 1973 concert, some of the “standards” —like Rodgers and Hart’s “My Romance” will be almost unrecognizable here, but nonetheless dazzling.

That’s all I’m going to write other than to write that it would be worth your while to stand on line to pick up a copy of Inner Spirit. There will be 6500 hand numbered copies of both records available on RSD April 23rd.

COMMENTS
rich d's picture

Which MJQ record was it?

Michael Fremer's picture
Live in Europe. Two LP set. Luckily Atlantic issued it as two separate records so I was able to buy just the one he broke....
Tom L's picture

and thanks for the background info and the great story.
Nobody has ever played the piano like Bill Evans!
Why would Melero hide his Revox? The drum and bass mics were small, but you sure couldn't conceal those two Neumanns on the piano! Were the mics ostensibly intended for PA use?

Mark Evans's picture

from 1963 (Verve V6-8518, Produced by Creed Taylor) is another fine listening experience. Gary's wife, Gail McFarland, the daughter of your Mom's decorator is interviewed in Kristian St. Clair's film, "This is Gary McFarland". Gary's Theme is found on Evans' "You Must Believe in Spring" (Warner Bros HS 3504, Produced by Helen Keane and Tommy Lipuma), a very touching tune. Thank for the review.

Michael Fremer's picture
I have a test pressing of a new 45rpm reissue of "You Must Believe in Spring" cut from tape and it's awesome. And the original is pretty good cut by Doug Sax but this is in another league.....
Bigrasshopper's picture

Thanks for that confirmation. I preordered that after seeing It on Craft Recordings site. But not before streaming it from Qobuz. Good stuff. For some reason it refuses to play all the tracks. Skips 1 then skips 2 and goes to 8 and plays the rest. But it was the cover art that immediately caught my attention as I recognized it from a header image for a curious article on effects of certain silver wire in audio by Herb of Stereophile a few years back.

jazz's picture

I ordered it as soon as it was available. I have an ordinary original and a promo, which both sound great, and I’m sure that this 45 RPM makes sense, as the piano is recorded quite hot and will benefit among other aspects. I guess this might get close to an 11/10

Intermediate Listener's picture

October Suite with pianist Steve Kuhn on Impulse is special too.

DFacobbre's picture

...lining up to buy a record? No.

MalachiLui's picture

i've lined up many times on record store day for good records that i'm definitely happy to own, though there's nothing this year that i care about enough to line up for. lining up for a record if it's a limited release that you really really want makes sense, but it's all about how much it's worth to you.

DFacobbre's picture

I was able to get one without standing in line, and a low number too. Nice! Appreciate the review Michael.

stargeezer's picture

Great! I hope ya'all are enjoying the listen. I missed out on both along with the Ramones boxset. Of course I could pay double on Ebay. What the hell 6500? Why not press 20k like Chad did with the new Jimi? RSD needs to go away. Stop this limited pressing shit!

MalachiLui's picture

reasonable number considering how much it'll sell. i personally think those 20k press runs for the UHQRs are overkill. limited quantities mean that records become more collectible which in many cases is fine imo. not that i'm directly targeting you but i think a lot of audiophile people whine about RSD cuz they're not used to having to do any work to find shit, whereas more collector-type buyers are perfectly fine with it.

stargeezer's picture

They sold out the same day. Thats not a reasonable number. I don't mind records becoming more collectable over the years not days. Axis bold as love was limited to 5000. Take a peek at what those are going for.I never had a chance to get that one either. Are you experienced 20k pressed, I have one. That to me is not overkill when you allow people to actually buy a record. Beatles mono box? I would love to have that too but not at at housand of dollars. There is NO reason for this Box set to be out of print. What's wrong with giving the people what they want. Honestly, what percentage of the people buying exclusive titles on RSD actually went home and listened to the record?

MalachiLui's picture

i understand wishing that you could get certain out of print recent pressings, i totally get that. but to be perfectly fair, the axis stereo UHQR was available on preorder for months after it was first announced, and the beatles mono stuff sat around for a few years after release (but prices are indeed egregious for those).

and to answer what percentage of people buying records on RSD actually listened... probably most! of course there are always a few people who buy RSD titles to flip them or hang them on the wall (but for jazz titles i don't expect that latter crowd to be an issue), but most people who buy records in general actually play their records even if there is that collectability factor. not to mention, flipping RSD titles isn't nearly as lucrative as it used to be (except for that taylor swift 7" this year)

Paul Boudreau's picture

Got copies of both on the way. FYI, there’s a nice story on Zev Feldman in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/music/2022/04/19/zev-feldman-interview/

sgoapper's picture

I am a huge Fan both Bill and Mister Michael Fremer of course ..I have done a face to face First edition vinyl Yellow Note and new Resonnance Release .. sorry but the sound is not "bootlegged with poor sound" Perhaps more "analogish" but as airy as the 2022 Resonnance. Perhaps CD édition.

jondle's picture

I lucked into the last copy at one of the local shops on RSD of "Inner Spirit." Your review helps me better appreciate what I'm listening to - thank you.

Toshido's picture

I was waiting in line early in that morning and was one of the first to enter the recordstore, got both records instantly. The quality is really great soundwise as well in production quality.

My choice still goes to Inner Spirit as my favorite of the two. What a live recording, it is now my favorite Evans record to date. While Trio 64 is still a classic, sometimes a live recording has more feeling well as emotion in it compared to a studio recording. And that's the strong point these two records. Resonance did a fantastic job!

najagi2955's picture

It's great to see efforts to unearth and properly honor the legacy of a talented artist like Evans. | Sugar Land Concrete Contractors

Jen Jennifer's picture

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Jen Jennifer's picture

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