Among the many surprises in this collection is a live performance of My Melancholy Baby by Bill Evans and saxophonist Lee Konitz.
Before I go further, let me first say that this DVD, like all of the videos in the Jazz Icons series, was exquisitely shot and restored. You can't believe how polished and vivid the resolution is and how strong the contrasts and angles are. The problem for me, in general, is that most DVDs of jazz concerts and club dates simply aren't that interesting to watch. If you were actually there, you were in the moment. On video, most live jazz seems much less exciting.
Why? I think by watching jazz performances on video, a good part of your audio perception is distracted by the visual, which childishly insists on more and more action and entertainment. In the process, your visual essentially robs that part of your brain that listens deeply and critically. It's like making too many demands on a power source. The lights dim a little.
Then last night, I viewed the Bill Evans DVD again-but this time on my computer. While viewing, I found I had to take care of some writing. So I started to work, with the visual eclipsed by my Word document. That's when I realized I was listening much more intently to the music of Bill Evans in Sweden (1964), France (1965), Denmark (1970), Sweden (1970) and Denmark (1975). As I worked, I took mini breaks to peek behind my Word document for a few seconds to view different sections of the DVD. And I was always blown away.
That's when I realized how great and significant a DVD this is. The music is beyond superb. Evans takes many of the songs in completely different directions. His 'Round Midnight from the Sweden (1970) chapter may be his most astonishing version of the song. I was blown away. I'll also say that his Sleepin' Bee and You're Gonna Hear From Me are close behind as monumental renditions. And the footage is quite revealing-in nibbles.
And perhaps this is the way all DVDs of jazz performances should be viewed: On your computer, so you can listen hard while doing something else, checking in every so often to see what the artists are up to. Blame it on television. Your brain has been trained to want two guys crashing through a window wrestling for a knife. But listen to a DVD, and it's a whole new bag. I'm going to be listening to this Bill Evans DVD over and over again. Hearing is believing! -- JazzWax.com, Marc Myers, December 21, 2008
Jazz Icons is doing for jazz what the Criterion Collection has done for classic and important films. -- Jazz Times Magazine
Jazz Icons' Bill Evans DVD is an essential addition to the pianist's legacy. -- Jazz.com, Thomas Cunniffe, December 2008
Thanksgiving weekend marks 40 years since the Bill Evans Trio, with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell, appeared at Raleigh's Frog and Nightgown. The pianist's "Live '64-'75," part of the third group of Jazz Icons DVD releases, arrives just in time for the anniversary.
Tracks recorded in 1970 in Denmark and Sweden capture the personnel from the Frog gig. The bassist and drummer on the other tracks include Chuck Israels and Larry Bunker (Sweden, '64), Neils-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Alan Dawson (France, '65) and Gomez and Eliot Zigmund (Denmark, '75).
Evans' trios were the antithesis of show biz. Evans, with head bowed, rarely looked up from the keys. Bass and drums were all business, all interplay. Evans was the most romantic of pianists. His harmonies have affected almost every jazz pianist since the late '50s. And if you were lucky enough to have been a teenage jazz fan and first heard him then, your harmonic sensitivity was set for life.
Highlights of the disc include "Detour Ahead" ('65) and "Alfie" and two swinging, technically brilliant versions of "Someday My Prince Will Come" (all from '70). The third group of Jazz Icons also features discs by Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Oscar Peterson and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. -- The News & Observer, Owen Cordle, November 2008
The sound quality is first rate, and the performances are extraordinary. -- Newsweek Magazine
This newly issued DVD provides footage of the late and undeniably influential pianist Bill Evans' performances across Europe, spanning 1964-1975. Including an extensive booklet with photos and reminisces by Evans' daughter Maxine, the program offers a comprehensive documentary of the pianist's various trios, presented in chronological order.
The booklet features a conversation with bassist Chuck Israels (appearing on the 1964 tracks) who discusses Evans' ability to play so wondrously amid his drug addiction while providing other insights about the pianist's sense of organization et al. And Maxine Evans recollects the time when she rode in a limo with her father and Tony Bennett from New York to the Mike Douglas Show in Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, there's a wealth of information to accompany the video. With the opening moments of "My Foolish Heart," from a 1964 performance in Sweden, we see the paradigm of Evans' stage persona, where he faces down towards the keyboard via his trance-like enactments.
Alto sax great Lee Konitz sits in with the band for a breezy, mid-tempo swing on "My Melancholy Baby, which is a highlight from Evans' 1965 gig in France. Here, the audience is treated to a flawlessly executed drum solo by Alan Dawson, who employs cross-sticking and other difficult to execute techniques. Of course, the late drummer was a revered clinician. Yet Evans remains the focal point during all of his trio permutations up through the color footage of his 1975 Danish TV set with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund.
Evans' lyrically rich chord voicings and wondrous harmonic movements were engineered upon an ever-present sense of buoyancy and swing, regardless of pitch or tempo. A giant among jazz pianists, his artistry is often imitated, although his impressionable mark of authenticity can never be compromised. The film shows Evans bridging the gap between trad-jazz, bop and modern mainstream while conveying variable stylistic changes along the way. -- JazzReview.com, December 2008