Bill Evans – At The Montreux Jazz Festival – Acoustic Sounds

by | Aug 17, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Bill Evans – At The Montreux Jazz Festival – Verve Records V6-8763 (1968)/Analogue Productions/Universal Music Group APJ 8762-45 [distr. by Acoustic Sounds] 200-gram 45 – rpm stereo double vinyl Limited Edition, 48:16 *****:

(Bill Evans – piano; Eddie Gomez – double bass; Jack DeJohnette – drums)

As a new generation discovers the joys of hi-res and vinyl analog music, Analogue Productions stands at the forefront. Under the direction of founder Chad Kassem, a a passion for the restoration of vintage music has been driven by unprecedented refined technology. With the formation of this label, audiophile re-mastering  of various recordings from labels such as Columbia, Verve, Impulse!, Fantasy, Blue Note and Prestige Records are now available. One of the key components to this successful musical innovation is the commitment to using original source material… master analog tapes!. For vinyl, the utilization of “thicker” (180-gram, 200-gram) 12” platters has been integral. With the formation of Quality Sound Pressings, the upgraded, modified technology has transformed analog recording, creating a bona fide audiophile recording with heightened attention to quality control. Additionally, CDs, SACDs and uncompressed downloads in Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and PCM Audio Formats are available.

Analogue Productions has produced a sparking re-mastered 200-gram 45 rpm double vinyl of the 1968 concert, Bill EvansAt The Montreux Jazz Festival. Released in 1968 on Verve Records, the album won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group. it seems appropriate that the work of Evans, a trailblazing jazz pioneer, gets a dual-pronged upgrade. Evans connected to various different groups, not solely jazz fans. At the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival, Bill cast a giant shadow, With Eddie Gomez (double bass) and Jack Dejohnette, the trio was looking to have an impact on the festival. After concert musical co-promoter Geo Voumand introduces the trio (in French), they hit an immediate swing groove on “One For Helen”. Evans masterful technique of executing different tempos with each hand bristles with syncopated resonance. Gomez and DeJohnette are in lockstep. The double bassist shines on an extended solo as Evans fills in seamlessly. DeJohnette’s understated drum work is compelling. Evans returns to handle the upbeat verse. These are concise arrangements. Up next is a jaunty cover of Harold Arlen’s Broadway standard, “A Sleepin’ Bee”. This was originally performed by Diahann Carroll in the 1954 musical, House Of Flowers. Evans distills the pithy song core, but injects it with lively whimsy. He opens it up to some improvisational jamming, but always seems to maintain the Broadway-esque sassiness. Once more, Gomez contributes a nimble-fingered solo.

Side Two offers pair of straight-ahead jazz classics. “Mother Of Earl” (a composition by Evans favorite Earl Zindars) initiates with a bluesy prologue on piano. With a faint brush cymbal frame by DeJohnette, the trio transitions to a medium swing groove. Evans is dazzling with his articulate, rolling licks. He appears to be exploring separate motifs but intermingles them flawlessly. Gomez returns to solo as the cohesive dynamics are potent. Bill returns in a melancholy translation with rich, colorful shading. Miles Davis’ 1958 modal touchstone, “Nardis” is brilliant. Evans had played on the first recording of the song as a sideman for Cannonball Adderley. The unorthodox rhythm patterns and chord progressions mesh with the adroit technique of this pianist. The inherent swing aesthetics underscore the jam. Evans’ inspired play has intensity and occasional Monk-like halting elasticity. DeJohnette unleashes a sustained polyrhythmic solo with cascading flourishes. In a mesmerizing solo piece, Evans captures Gershwin’s genius on “I Loves You Porgy”. His evocative imagery and lyricism glow with harmonic eloquence, as he fuses the gospel nuances of Catfish Row with elegant sophistication. This is a natural pairing of America’s greatest composer and jazz pianist.

On the romantic ballad, “The Touch Of Your Lips”, Evans liberates the song from popular cliche with haunting jazzy flair. Gomez and DeJohnette enter midway to bring this one home. In another unexpected move, Gomez takes the lead on the classic torch opus, “Embraceable You”. Evans’ artistic fidelity never abates. It is apparent on “Someday My Prince Will Come”. The Disney love song has been a staple of jazz performers. In the hands of Bill Evans, a smoking 3/4 time signature (aided by the propulsion of Gomez and DeJohnette) features breathless runs and percolating notation. Evans’ fluidity is palpable as he surrounds the melody with jazzy inflection and exchanges freely with his band mates.. The finale (“Walkin’ Up”) is also explosive. After a descending, emphatic intro, the trio engages with fiecely as Evans weaves his unique tapestry of up tempo momentum into jazz reference. 

Analogue Productions has done a superb job in re-mastering Bill EvansAt The Montreux Jazz Festival to audiophile vinyl. The utilization of 45 rpm speed is a revelation. The atmospheric “quiet” is at studio-level clarity. (When the audience applauds at the end of a song, it is almost startling). The detailed, precise tonality of the instruments is incredible, especially with a good pair of stereo headphones. Evans’ piano is percussive and crisp. All of the double bass sounds are crystalline, and small touches like brush on cymbal are showcased in the mix. The vinyl pressing by Quality Record Pressings is impeccable.

This album is a jazz and audiophile historical document. This would be a valuable addition to any collection, especially jazz aficionados and vinyl enthusiasts!  


Side One: One For Helen; A Sleepin’ Bee
Side Two: Mother Of Earl; Nardis
Side Three: I Loves You Porgy; The Touch Of Your Lips
Side Four: Embraceable You; Someday My Prince Will Come; Walkin’ Up 

—Robbie Gerson



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