Tag Archives: Bill Evans

On the Hunt for Classic Jazz: A Conversation with Zev Feldman

“There’s some very special moments when you’re hearing something privileged, and that’s one of the best parts of this job, hearing things for the first time.  An exclusive, if you will! We realized right then and there, ‘there is definitely music here that should be worth releasing!'” Speaking with Resonance Records co-president and “jazz detective” Zev Feldman over the phone, the joy and passion he brings to his calling — a worldwide hunt for unreleased archival recordings by titans of the genre — is almost palpable.

The focus of this conversation? One of Feldman’s latest efforts — Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott’s, out on LP on November 27 and CD December 4 (and recently reviewed in this space). As he sat in legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette’s home studio back in 2018, hearing the multitrack recordings of Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and DeJohnette at the iconic London club during July 1968, his reaction was, first and foremost, that of a lifelong lover of the music.

“There’s so much beauty, lessons that I’ve learned from Bill.  He really helped me learn about the beauty and sometimes subtlety and just the way the chords and different things can come out. For a piano trio, with three guys, they have so much to say, and so much to express in the way that they communicate . . . Just these guys having a conversation up there – it’s amazing.  Different chemistry, different dudes; this is something that’s definitely got some hard hitting, some nice rough edges around here in a good way.”

Inspired by the Ronnie Scott’s tapes, Feldman set out to build a package that could not only stand with Resonance’s other Evans releases (including Some Other Time and Another Time by the same, rarely-recorded trio), but would fulfill “a responsibility, in taking the opportunity to make things as great as they can be.” Beyond the details of unearthing this recording, the album booklet is packed to the gills. Reflections from Gomez and DeJohnette (the latter in conversation with pianist Chick Corea) on their time together in Evans’ trio. A view of Evans’ London residency from the audience by British jazz writer Brian Priestley, who was there and raved about it . A unique illustration by brilliant commercial artist David Stone Martin, another of Feldman’s passions. And then there’s — Chevy Chase?

“I’m not sure the mainstream public is aware of this, or even most of Bill’s fans are aware of this, but Bill and Chevy were very good friends.  Chevy used to drive him home sometimes after gigs; they kept in touch over the years; Bill even had two kittens which he gave to Chevy, which he had their whole entire lives.  And Chevy is also a musician in his own right; some people may not be aware, but he’s also been a drummer and a pianist.” In other words, Chase brings to this release what Feldman and all the other contributors do: a long-standing delight in Evans’ music, filtered through his own unique perspective.

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Jazz Piano: A Time-Lapse Round-up

For some unknown reason, my recent listening has tacked in the direction of mainstream jazz (although there’s still plenty of avant-garde, jazz/rock fusion and prog in the rotation). If I had to speculate, I’d say I might be looking for less tension and more release during my unobligated time — and for me, jazz offers that release with a cherry on top.

But what’s on offer in the current marketplace is a factor as well. Instead of baking sourdough bread or taking up acoustic guitar during the time of COVID, it’s as if jazz musicians and aficionados have all dug deep in their closets and simultaneously unearthed long lost vintage recordings — which record companies eager to fill their distribution pipelines have snapped up and launched into the wider world. A quintet of fresh releases by five masters of jazz piano serve as both cases in point and a unique, time-lapse look at the art form, from the late 1960s to today.

Currently, California-based Resonance Records is the leading exponent of this approach; in their catalog, veteran producer George Klabin and “jazz detective” Zev Feldman have assembled an impressive swath of previously unavailable live and studio sessions by giants of the genre, ranging from Nat King Cole’s swinging piano and vocal work through Sonny Rollins’ masterful extensions of bebop saxophone to an extraordinary big-band date by trail-blazing fusion bassist Jaco Pastorius. Feldman has also spearheaded a ongoing series of releases led by Bill Evans, whose graceful, innovative approach to jazz piano shaped the beating heart of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, then influenced generations of his peers throughout a fruitful solo career. The latest in this series, Live at Ronnie Scott’s (out November 27 on LP and December 4 on CD) may be Feldman’s best find yet.

Captured during a four-week residency at the legendary London club in July 1968, Evans and his trio partners (bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, whose archive yielded the unreleased multitrack tape) are simply amazing: in tune with each other at the highest level, fearless and incisive in their approach to Evans originals, bebop classics from Miles and Thelonious Monk and the Great American Songbook. Evans’ reputation stemmed from his elevated, impressionistic lyricism, and there’s heaping helpings of that on display, but there’s also plenty of sheer rhythmic brio (often concentrated in Gomez’s resonant feature spots) and effortless, subtly thrilling swing. Liner notes that include contributions by premier British critic Brian Priestly (in attendance at the moment of creation), Gomez, DeJohnette, Chick Corea and Chevy Chase (!) provide all the context you need if you’re a neophyte in this territory. Expansive, spirited and utterly joyful, a rich blend of Evans’ veteran smarts with Gomez and DeJohnette’s youthful vigor, Live at Ronnie Scott’s really shouldn’t be missed.

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