Louis Armstrong isn’t the only late jazz great being remembered with a new posthumous release. Following its acclaimed discovery of early Wes Montgomery performances, the Resonance Records label is turning its attention to pioneering pianist Bill Evans. Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate will arrive from Resonance on June 12 in both compact disc and vinyl editions, preserving Evans’ performance at New York City’s Village Gate on October 23, 1968.
One of the most influential jazz pianists of all time, the native of Plainfield, New Jersey developed an introverted style of playing and broke ground in the field of modal jazz, i.e. the solos build from the key, not (as is traditional) from chord changes only. He made his debut album in 1956 with New Jazz Conceptions which introduced the future standard penned by Evans, “Waltz for Debby.” In 1958, he began a brief but important tenure in Miles Davis’ band, and although he had left the group proper by then, he returned at Davis’ behest to play a prominent role on 1959’s Kind of Blue, one of the most notable jazz albums of all time. As the year drew to a close, Evans had formed his own trio with Scott LaFaro (bass) and Paul Motian (drums), and with those incredibly sympathetic collaborators, he further explored slow ballad tempi and playing at a quiet, inward volume in this post-bop era.
LaFaro’s death in a car accident in 1961 devastated Evans, but he continued to record with bassist Chuck Israels and then in a variety of settings, winning a Grammy Award for 1963’s Conversations with Myself on which he overdubbed multiple piano parts himself. Eddie Gomez joined the trio on bass in 1966 during Evans’ tenure at Verve, by which time Motian had already departed the group. (Both Motian, who died in November 2011, and Gomez remembered their time with Evans on a successful new recording with Chick Corea, Further Explorations. It was released earlier this year.)
The Evans/Gomez/Marty Morell iteration of the Trio was long-lasting, and after Morell left in 1975, Evans and Gomez recorded a couple of well-regarded duo albums. During the 1970s, Evans also recorded two highly acclaimed piano/vocal albums with Tony Bennett before succumbing in 1980 to the drug addictions that had plagued him throughout most of his personal life. He left behind a catalogue on various labels of over fifty albums as a leader and countless more as a sideman.
Yet those demons won’t be readily in evidence on Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate. Hit the jump for the full scoop including the complete track listing!
Evans’ two sets on October 23, 1968 feature both Gomez and Morell. The concert was aired only once on Columbia University’s WKCR-FM and has never been commercially available until now. Evans’ longtime manager Helen Keane enlisted engineer George Klabin to document the gig, and Klabin astutely set up separate microphones on each member of the Trio, making for a clean and crisp recording.
In Resonance’s press release, Klabin stated, "Being able to hear jazz up close, as I did in clubs, I was dismayed by what I heard on live recordings. The sound was so often muddy and distant and not satisfying. I wanted to capture the intimacy." And intimate The Village Gate was. Art D'Lugoff opened The Village Gate in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1958, opening the upstairs club, Top of The Gate, a few years later. Its stage welcomed some of the brightest lights in jazz, folk and comedy. Resonance informs us that while Evans and co. were headlining upstairs, the Thelonious Monk and Charles Lloyd Quartets were holding the stage downstairs!
The seventeen tracks primarily consist of reinvented standards, a specialty of Evans. His original “Turn Out the Stars” closed out the first set, and a more recent song, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Alfie,” also featured in that first set. Evans paid homage to his downstairs neighbor, Monk, with “Round Midnight” in both sets. Johnny Mercer and Johnny Mandel’s then-recent movie tune “Emily” (from 1964’s Julie Andrews/James Garner vehicle The Americanization of Emily) also figured in both sets, as did Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach’s lovely “Yesterdays,” dating back to 1933 and the musical Roberta. Rodgers and Hart are represented with “My Funny Valentine” from 1937’s Babes in Arms, while 1953’s Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke standard “Here’s That Rainy Day” far outlasted the six Broadway performances of Carnival in Flanders, the musical in which it orginated!
The liner notes will be copious. Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell offer recollections of their time with Evans, while Klabin details his recording methods. Art D’Lugoff’s son Raphael reflects on the venue in which the concert was recorded. Other essays are contributed by venerable critic Nat Hentoff and vibist Gary Burton. Photographs by Jan Persson, Raymond Ross, Herb Snitzer, Fred Seligo, and Tom Copi round out the lavish booklet.
The album will be available in a 2-CD digipak with a 28-page booklet. For those who prefer their jazz on vinyl, a limited edition pressing of 3,000 hand-numbered 180-gram 3-LP sets will be pressed by Record Technology International. Its 4-panel booklet includes the same content as the CD booklet. This edition was pressed at 45 RPM for optimum sound and mastered by Bernie Grundman. Finally, the entire package will also be downloadable with an e-booklet (where available) for those who choose to prefer digital downloads.
A Record Store Day release will arrive on April 21 offering a taste of the set. Selections From Top of the Gate is a 10-inch vinyl record on cobalt blue vinyl pressed at 33-1/3 RPM, and it will offer four tracks from the complete album.
This prime slice of Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell at their finest, Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate, arrives from Resonance Records on June 21. We'll update with a pre-order link as soon as one is available!
The Bill Evans Trio, Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate (Resonance Records, 2012)
CD 1 - Set 1
1. Emily (J. Mandel & J. Mercer)
2. Witchcraft (C. Coleman & C. Leigh)
3. Yesterdays (J. Kern)
4. Round Midnight (T. Monk)
5. My Funny Valentine (Rodgers & Hart)
6. California Here I Come (De Sylva, Jolson & Myers)
7. Gone With The Wind (Magidson & Wrubel)
8. Alfie (Bacharach & David)
9. Turn Out The Stars (B. Evans)
CD 2 - Set 2
1. Yesterdays (J. Kern & O. Harbach)
2. Emily (J. Mandel & J. Mercer)
3. Round Midnight (T. Monk)
4. In A Sentimental Mood (D. Ellington)
5. Autumn Leaves (J. Kosma)
6. Someday My Prince Will Come (F. Churchill & L. Morey)
7. Mother Of Earl (E. Zindar)
8. Here's That Rainy Day (J. Burke & J. Van Heusen)