The Final Recordings Live at Keystone Korner, September 1980
The Last Waltz is a profoundly moving valedictory. These eight discs find Evans’s poetic piano—best known for its dark-night-of-the-soul balladry, oft-copied, Impressionist-influenced chord voicings, abiding intelligence, and much-envied touch—infused with a life-force that is palpable, even on the most brooding ballads. The terrible irony, of course, is that though we seldom heard this great artist in more expansive form than is so evident here, Evans (1929-1980) was near death, knew it and, consequently, was exceptionally driven to make every note count. This only adds to the poignancy of these, his final recordings.
The Last Waltz’s 65 previously unreleased performances take in 32 different melodies, most of them standards, as well as nine Evans originals. The sessions stem from eight nights at a one-time
jazz landmark by the pianist’s last outstanding trio, during what would prove to be the penultimate week of his life. This collection is additionally notable for its repertoire, amounting to a beautifully-charted Evans Retrospective, buoyed and consistently challenged by the young but adept bass-drums team of Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera, who had joined him in 1978 and 1979, respectively. Evans rethinks, reconfigures, and revitalizes many of the touchstone pieces spanning his brilliant career. There are, for example, six different renderings of ex-employer Miles Davis’s "Nardis," each introduced by a rich, extended fantasy for solo keyboard.
Though many gifted musicians fell under his quiet spell, and many more surely will, Bill Evans is in that tiny circle of the absolutely irreplaceable. The Last Waltz at once points up our grievous loss, while shedding new light on enduring genius.
Contains a 28-page illustrated booklet with essay by Derk Richardson.
Produced by TODD BARKAN