A posthumous release of late career Bill Evans in SACD format adds to the formidable legacy.
Bill Evans – You Must Believe In Spring – Warner Brothers Music (18981)/Craft Recordings CR00456 (2022) Hybrid SACD, 58:05 *****:
(Bill Evans – piano; Eddie Gomez – double bass; Eliot Zigmund – drums)
Any newly released Bill Evans recordings are significant. More than four decades after his death, his monumental influence on jazz piano is unprecedented. From his early days with Miles Davis (Kind Of Blue), to his prolific catalog of trio, duo and solo material, he shifted the course of instrumentals in jazz. While keeping the spirit of improvisation, he embraced ruminative shading and melodic essence. Toward the final years of his career, Evans suffered through many personal and lifestyle obstacles, yet continued to record and perform. Craft Recordings has released a SACD of You Must Believe In Spring. Recorded in 1977, it was released posthumously 4 years later. It represented the final collaboration with Eddie Gomez and Eliot Zigmund.
You Must Believe In Spring opens with an original composition, “B Minor Waltz”. At 3:19, it is the shortest track on the album, but very impactful. Evans distills the minor chord plaintiveness with hushed elegance. The 3/4 tempo is subdued and complements the instrumental delicacy. The title track (written by Michel Legrand for the 1967 film, The Young Girls Of Rochefort) begins with ethereal lines, but experiences a medium-swing uptick as Gomez and Zigmund push the tempo. Evans responds with crisp play and a slowed-down finish. This is an ideal pairing of a melodic composer and sensitive pianist. Evans pays tribute to vibraphonist/arranger Gary McFarland (“Gary’s Theme”). Evans’ translation is elegiac, delivered with silky reticence. There is a waltz-time core to the arrangement, Zigmund’s feathery touch on the cymbals is excellent. Evans remains understated, and never upstages the song with unnecessary flourishes. In a heartfelt tribute to his brother Harry, “We Will Meet Again” exudes a gentle sway that the trio transforms into cool jazz. Subtle crescendos provide the requisite emotion. The atmospheric phrasing is an essential part of “The Peacocks”. A deliberate pace is countered with gentle sway. Evans’ notation is brilliant and the rhythm section slides in and out with graceful precision. The great jazz pianists are capable of reinventing standards with unique expression. Evans is among the finest at this. On another waltz-time piece (“Sometime Ago”), his playing simply glows with warmth and agility. The last of the “original” album is “Theme From M*A*S*H”, a perennial concert favorite. He embraces the buoyant vibe and approximates Latin-infused motifs with energetic solos.
There are three extended bonus tracks that change the aesthetics. It feels more spontaneous and lighter in mood. “Without A Song” starts off with the customary melancholy, but at the 1:45 mark, the trio shifts into swing mode and the chemistry is palpable. This may be an attribute of Evans that is sometimes overlooked. Gomez gets a well-deserved up-tempo solo, and Zigmund’s drum fills are stellar. Evans covers his former band leader Miles Davis on “Freddie Freeloader”, from the legendary Kind Of Blue album. The finger-snapping modal accessibility and bluesy countenance underscore this gritty arrangement. The addition of electric piano is a nice touch. Again, the trio is more dynamic on the bonus material. “All Of You” has been a Bill Evans touchstone. This version bristles with verve and “live” urgency. It is a worthy finale to a great album.
You Must Believe In Spring is another milestone for Bill Evans. The audio quality of this Craft Recording release (Evans’ 70th studio album) is stellar. This pristine mix is vibrant, balanced and the attention to smaller details (drum brush, upper-register piano) is noteworthy. The album is also available on standard CD, vinyl and combined bundles.
B Minor Waltz
You Must Believe In Spring
Gary’s Theme; We Will Meet Again (For Harry)
The Peacocks; Sometime Ago
Theme From M*A*S*H (a.k.a. Suicide Is Painless)
BONUS TRACKS: Without A Song; Freddie Freeloader; All Of You.
Please see vendor Craft Recordings for more information: