Bill Evans - Interplay

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Interplay, recorded by a pair of Bill Evans-led quintets, decades later stands as some of Bill Evans' most enigmatic and unusual music in makeup as well as execution. Recorded by Orrin Keepnews between July and August of 1962, the second quintet date remained unreleased until 20 years later -- after Evans' death -- as part of a double LP. On CD, both sessions were released as part the Original Jazz Classics editions by Fantasy, the first as Interplay, the second as Loose Bloose.

This is the first time the complete sessions have been together on CD, replicating the LP release. Up until 1962, Evans recorded primarily as a leader in the piano trio format and not with horns. (He was a seminal part of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue sessions, and was on Cannonball Adderley's debut in 1958 and a duet recording with Jim Hall called Intermodulation in 1959.) His musical relationship with bassist Scott LaFaro produced only four recordings (two of them taken from live dates at the very end of LaFaro's life -- he was killed in an auto accident in 1959), but they remain some of the most profoundly communicative and intuitive in the jazz canon. According to Keepnews' notes in 1961, Evans became despondent and wondered if he would work again. He went into seclusion for a period. He also had "health" problems -- i.e., a severe case of narcotics addiction. He emerged again in the summer of 1962 and produced four and a half albums' worth of solo, trio, and quintet sessions. (He needed cash, and in order to be responsible, Keepnews, who signed the checks at Riverside, needed to put material in the can to justify paying him.)

The Interplay quintets are comprised of a pair of different sessions: both featured Hall on guitar and Philly Joe Jones on drums. The July 1962 sessions (which came out as Interplay on OJC) included a very young Freddie Hubbard from the Jazz Messengers and bassist Percy Heath from the Modern Jazz Quartet. The August sessions included saxophonist Zoot Sims in Hubbard's place, and bassist Ron Carter. The tunes with Hubbard are the most revelatory, in that Evans had a more blues-based approach to playing: harder, edgier, and in full flow, fueled in no small part by Hall, who is at his very best here, swinging hard whether it be a ballad or an uptempo number.

Hubbard's playing, on the other hand, was never so restrained as it was here. Using a mute most of the time, his lyricism is revealed to jazz listeners for the first time -- with Art Blakey it was a blistering attack of hard bop aggression. This, however, was a program of standards from the '30s and '40s, most of which Hubbard wasn't familiar with; he slipped into them quite naturally without the burden of history -- check his reading and improvisation on "When You Wish Upon a Star." Ironically, it's on the sole original, the title track, where the band in all its restrained, swinging power can be best heard, though the rest is striking finger-popping hard bop jazz, with stellar crystalline beauty in the ballads. The latter session with Sims and Carter stands in sharp contrast to those recorded a month earlier. For starters, this one is made up of all-original material. Secondly, it sticks closer to the hard bop format and walks a thin line between Evans' elegant sense of balladry -- as influenced by Debussy and Darius Milhaud -- and his tougher, leaner, hard-swinging approach to the hard bop blues. It begins with "Loose Bloose" and a standard blues vamp, with beautiful solos by Hall and Sims following in gorgeous steamy form.

Evans' chords here shift to his more ornate side, but he's in the cut time-wise. This is in sharp contrast to the ballad "Time Remembered," which is languid, mysterious, and full of sheer elegance by way of what is not "said." "Funkallero" contains one of sharpest, steamiest solos ever by Hall, before coming to a nearly rapturous second head that is harmonically extrapolated from the first. This session is the vastly underrated of the two, and perhaps it lies in some of the strangeness in some of these compositions: check the classical counterpoint in the melody of "Fudgesickle Built for Four," where Hall, Evans, and Sims all engage in a triangulated exchange of counterpoint as an intro, or the haunting, very slowly developing "There Came You," which, until heard closely, can resemble a kind of lounge jazz -- but Sims (playing his best Ben Webster) offers what's hidden inside and Evans plays atmospherically during his solo.

In sum, this complete edition of Interplay is a welcome addition to the compact disc shelf of any Evans fan, but also because it has been preserved as originally released in America. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

(025218630825)

SKU 025218630825
Barcode # 025218630825
Brand OJC / Riverside

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