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Old 10-Aug-2009, 18:50
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Default Bill Evans Trio - Moon Beams (2006) Retail CD

Music > Albums > Bill Evans Trio - Moon Beams (2006) Retail CD
added on August 10, 2009, at 18:51 by heebee

Bill Evans had a distinctive way with a slow ballad which became highly influential; so one can understand why, in the early sixties, his producer wanted to make an all-ballad Evans album. He created the album by extracting the slower tempoed pieces from this recording session under the title 'Moonbeams', publishing the remaining tracks from the session on a companion album, 'How My Heart Sings'. Both are highly recommended.

The risk of monotony on an all-ballad album is avoided partly because of the intense concentration of Evans's playing but also through the variety of the material itself. It also helps that the two Evans compositions vary the pace by being quicker-tempoed as well as being different in character: "Re: Person I Knew" is a modal theme with a slow introduction which subtly modulates into a gently swinging solo; "Very Early" is one of Evans's jazz waltzes, slowish but again gently swinging.

Since everything on this album is beautifully played, favourite tracks are very much a matter of personal preference. For me, the briefest track: "I Fall in Love Too Easily", is also one of the most affecting, beginning gently but building up to a kind of contained passion expressed through the rhythmic intensity of the playing. It's hard to imagine the Tadd Dameron composition "If You Could See Me Now" being better played and some of the more familiar standard tunes like "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "It Might As Well Be Spring" gain so much from the Evans treatment that you think of him not so much as playing them but as making them his own.

A word too for the sensitive playing of bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Paul Motian, both of whom on their various recordings with Evans had an almost telepathic rapport with the pianist, particularly at a slow tempo. What they are doing here may sound elementary, but try imagining what the music would be like without them and you can hear how much the success of the music depends on their contributions.

This is an album you can return to again and again and continue to find in it fresh subtleties. If you are building a Bill Evans collection, this is an essential purchase. And if you like Evans in this lyrical, reflective mood, I would recommend that you look up my reviews of the albums 'Undercurrent', 'You Must Believe in Spring' and a compilation by Verve titled 'Quiet Now: Never Let Me Go'. There are also some excellent slow ballad performances on a CD on the Belgian 'Jazz Hour' label titled 'Autumn Leaves: a jazz hour with Bill Evans' (from which "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?" is one of my favourite Evans performances).

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