The title of Resonance Records' new archival release from Bill Evans, Some Other Time: The Lost Session from The Black Forest, has proven to be incredibly apt. The source of this new album is a never-before-released studio session held in 1968 for Germany's MPS Records - the only studio session recorded by the then-Bill Evans Trio featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The discovery of a "new" Evans studio album would be cause for celebration enough; when one takes into account the historical significance of the personnel, it doubly makes for a landmark release. The MPS tapes may have sat on the shelf until "some other time," but happily, that time is now - and these sessions, as presented on two CDs, exceed all expectations.
Though the pianist was signed to Verve at the time, Evans and manager Helen Keane consented to a studio recording session at MPS' Black Forest studio with the expectation that the contractual dealings would be handled at a later date for its release. It's only taken 48 years for that to happen - with the consent of the Evans estate, the MPS heirs, Verve successor Universal Music Group, and of course, Resonance Records.
Evans, Gomez and DeJohnette only stayed together for six months; until now, the most familiar document of their work together was the Grammy Award-winning Verve release Live at the Montreux Festival, recorded on June 15, 1968 - just five days before the MPS session. (In fall 1968, Marty Morrell replaced DeJohnette on drums. He, Evans and Gomez then stayed together until 1975.) Only one song heard on the Montreux recording - "Walkin' Up" - was reprised at MPS, where Evans chose instead to concentrate on less frequently aired repertoire. This clearly added to the spontaneity and freshness heard on Some Other Time.
Solos, duos, and trios were all performed in the Black Forest setting. Resonance has sensibly sequenced its contents: Disc One is the 55-minute album likely intended for release by MPS, with roughly a third of the set dedicated to show music. (The rest consists of standards and originals.) The second disc presents the remainder of the session, almost exclusively unique material. In essence, the listener is getting not one, but two completely unheard Bill Evans albums.
Evans, as always, brought intimacy and beauty to his voicings on piano. A fleet "You Go to My Head" with a Gomez solo hints at the more aggressive approach Evans would take on his instrument in the years to come (as does the second CD's opener, Andre and Dory Previn's triumphant Inside Daisy Clover movie tune "You're Gonna Hear From Me"). There's tight, crackling interaction between Evans and Gomez here and on numerous other tracks, such as Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and Bronislaw Kaper and Ned Washington's "On Green Dolphin Street." Evans may be the leader but he intuitively knows when to cede the spotlight to his accomplished partners. "Sidemen" just doesn't seem apt enough.
In fact, Gomez is very much a star of these recordings, with DeJohnette adding often-subtle but always key texture and backbone to the material. In conversation with producer Zev Feldman as reprinted in the new liner notes, the drummer observes of the close interplay and musically linked sound of these recordings: "It's a conversation as opposed to just a piano solo to bass solo to drum solo."
Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's self-searching soliloquy "What Kind of Fool Am I" from their musical Stop the World - I Want to Get Off was first cut by Evans in 1963 (though that version remained unreleased until 1989) and subsequently revisited both live and in the studio. This is only one of two of his studio recordings of the tune; the other was on 1975's Alone (Again). Here it's a duo with Gomez rather than a solo. (For ultimate comparison's sake, Resonance has also included a trio take on Disc 2.) Evans' delicate touch navigates the song's multitude of emotions, as he's pensive, playful and dramatic over the course of its 5+ minutes. George Wright and Robert Forrest's Kismet showtune "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," like "What Kind of Fool Am I," can be heard in both duo and trio renditions; they're the only two songs repeated on both discs. The whole trio takes on a meditative exploration of Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" with aplomb. Another Broadway-derived tune, Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's "Some Other Time," lends its title to this set. The supremely wistful melody is given a beautiful, contemplative reading here.
On this set, you'll also hear Evans' first recording of "I'll Remember April" as a duet; he opens it as a waltz before shifting to 4/4 for a tender and evocative performance. The pianist revisited "It Could Happen to You" (previously recorded by him in sessions with pianist Bob Brookmeyer and singer Monica Zetterlund) in confident fashion, too. Three of his own originals pepper the set. "Very Early" delivers lovely lyricism and bright swing. The ballad "Turn Out the Stars" gets a haunting rendition, and the rhythmic "Walkin' Up" is included on the second disc.
Any of the songs on the second disc could have easily been slotted into the "main" running order; their placement doesn't reflect any lessening of quality in the performances. Evans' inward style is perfectly suited to Cole Porter's cool "It's All Right with Me." Unfortunately, the solo take is incomplete, but the nearly four minutes that survive are happily choice. He brings his lightest touch to the trio performance of Burton Lane/Ralph Freed standard "How About You" and de-emphasizes the desperation as he improvises on a solo version of "Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)," so closely associated with Billie Holiday.
Resonance has packaged this set in its customarily lavish fashion. The 40-page booklet makes for essential reading. Producer Zev Feldman tells the story of the discovery of the tapes, and Marc Myers contributes a critical essay about the performances, placing them in the context of Evans' career. Friedhelm Schulz fills in yet more detail about this period. Compelling interviews with both Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette round out this impressive written accompaniment. This release has been mixed by George Klabin and Fran Gala, and remastered by Gala, from 192/24 transfers directly from the original MPS master tapes.
No jazz connoisseur or fan/collector of the Bill Evans oeuvre will want to miss this. It may have taken until Some Other Time for this 1968 set to see release, but it's been worth the wait.