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The Poetry Of Bill Evans


If there were a poet laureate of jazz piano, it would be Bill Evans. His lyricism and deeply emotional approach transcended bop, elevating a macho, hard-driven aesthetic into something more akin to the impressionists Ravel and Debussy. The Very Best Of The Bill Evans Trio, a new compilation, showcases Evans' finest work and the legendary trio he formed with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

With 11 of the best tracks from four of his best albums, recorded for Riverside between 1959 and '61, this compilation is both a great introduction for the newly initiated as well as a sort of pocket sampler for longtime fans.

Evans' influence on the jazz repertoire is so substantial that his covers of songs like the opening track, "Autumn Leaves," are published in jazz fake books in the keys he used, rather than their original keys. Then there are the more than 60 original compositions that have become standards, rivaling his former boss, Miles Davis in output and quality. Speaking of Miles, he originally recorded "Blue In Green," one of the tracks on this CD, on his groundbreaking Kind Of Blue, taking a composer's credit for what is commonly accepted as an Evans composition.

A big part of Evans' unique new sound was the interplay between him and his sidemen, who played with the same hyper-aware sensitivity. Motian was a master at low volume intensity and his brushwork is among the best ever recorded. LaFaro's interplay with Evans and his own innate lyricism made for a trio that was truly a meeting of equals, not star and sidemen.

LaFaro was tragically killed in a car accident in July 1961, just 10 days after their two live Vanguard albums were recorded. Only 25 at the time of his death, the mind reels at the musical journeys he -- with and without Evans -- would have taken.