March 3, 2024

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CD review: Bill Evans – Tales: Live in Copenhagen 1964 – 2023: Video, CD cover

The newest gem in the ever-growing catalog of jazz pianist Bill Evans, commemorates a return to his roots.

European classical music is at the foundation of Evans’ distinctive sound, and “Tales — Live in Copenhagen (1964)” features previously unreleased recordings from his first European tour.

The vinyl version will be released for Record Store Day on Friday, Nov. 24, with the CD edition scheduled for Dec. 1. The album is record label Elemental Music’s follow-up to “Treasures — Solo, Trio & Orchestra Recordings from Denmark (1965-1969),” an engaging two-CD set of later performances.

“Tales” contains 11 cuts, 10 of which feature Evans with bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Larry Bunker. Most of the tunes had been part of the trio’s repertoire for some time when they arrived in Copenhagen, and their comfort level results in music filled with inventive interplay that is a marvel of syncopation and synchronicity.

Since this is Bill Evans, the music sings as well as swings. “Waltz for Debby” receives a lovely, spirited rendering, and while “My Foolish Heart” begins at a mournful tempo in two performances, Evans’ embrace of the melody soon dispels the gloom.

There’s also a lyrical interpretation of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.” According to the extensive, excellent liner notes, it’s Evans’ only recording of the Rodgers-Hart song.

Considering the age and sources of the material, the sound quality is remarkably good. That makes it easy to enjoy Evans’ earliest European evocations of the many influences he distilled so beautifully, from Miles and Monk to Debussy and Beethoven.

Bill Evans was a leading figure among a generation of white jazzmen, bespectacled and resembling Ivy League math professors more than hellraisers on the bandstands. They were brilliant and emotionally cool. Evans was a marvelous pianist with a cool, fluid touch on the previously unissued recordings gathered on Tales.

Most tracks were taped for broadcast on Danish radio or television. The session opens with one of Evans’ own numbers, “Waltz for Debby,” a song as lovely and structured as Debussy—yet when the combo kicks in, it swings with sophistication. Evans surveys the standards—“My Foolish Heart,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Is”—before concluding with the quiet melancholy of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight.”

1. Waltz for Debby
2. My Foolish Heart
3. How My Heart Sings
4. Sweet and Lovely
5. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
6. Five [Theme]
7. My Foolish Heart #2
8. How My Heart Sings #2
9. Sweet and Lovely #2
10. Five [Theme] #2
11. ‘Round Midnight

Tracks 1-6:
Bill Evans – (piano)
Chuck Israels – (bass)
Larry Bunker – (drums)
Danish Radio, Radiohuset, Copenhagen, August 10, 1964

Tracks 7-11:
Bill Evans – (piano)
Chuck Israels – (bass)
Larry Bunker – (drums)
TV-City, Copenhagen, August 25, 1964

Track 11:
Bill Evans – (piano)
Eddie Gomes – (bass)
Marty Morell – (drums)
Stakladen, Aarhus, Denmark, November 21, 1969

BILL EVANS - TALES - LIVE IN COPENHAGEN (1964) | Bill Evans | Elemental  Music Records

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