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The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings [4 LP Box Set] Box set
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The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings
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Exactly 40 years ago, popular music's top song stylist, Tony Bennett, joined together with the legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans for two albums of sublime duets. Venerated as gorgeous gems of jazz grace, the two LPs, along with numerous alternate takes and bonus tracks, are combined on this 4-LP, 180-g vinyl boxed set, The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings. Included is a collectible lithograph, as well as a deluxe, 12-page booklet featuring rare photos and extensive liner notes by Will Friedwald (co-author of Tony Bennett's autobiography, The Good Life).
It all began with 1975's The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album, which spotlights two legends at work in equal partnership, tackling classics from the Great American Songbook ('The Days of Wine and Roses,' 'Young and Foolish', 'The Touch of Your Lips'), as well as a moving rendition of the pianist's classic tune 'Waltz for Debby' (with lyrics written by Gene Lees). A consistently enthusiastic and balanced musical partnership, Bennett and Evans shine both individually and in tandem. Bennett and Evans selected the tunes, worked out the arrangements semi-spontaneously, and picked the final takes to be used. Bennett recalls that the pair didn't even discuss song choices before the session: 'I would name a tune, and Bill would say, 'That's good, let's do that.' We'd find a key and then the two of us would work it out.'
Following the recording, the pair performed live on a number of occasions, including the Newport Jazz Festival (in New York) and on television appearances around the world.
In 1976, Bennett and Evans returned to the studio for Together Again. It's another low-lights, high-improv date of standards that opens with an Evans solo rendition of 'The Bad and the Beautiful' and continues with such moving renditions of 'Lucky to Be Me,' 'You're Nearer,' and 'You Don't Know What Love Is.' Another Evans' original, 'The Two Lonely People' (with lyrics by Carol Hall), also graces the playlist.
Both sessions recorded together, not in isolation booths yielded several fine alternate takes that are included, as well as bonus tracks from the second date, with a superb version of Cole Porter's 'Dream Dancing.' Marking a unique partnership in jazz history, The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings is an essential addition to the music collection of any fan of either musical legend.
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Top Customer Reviews
Run, don't walk to buy/download The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings. It is a Magnum Opus from two artists, who had already achieved greatness on their own, collaborating in the truest sense of the word to create, as Evans would say, "truth and beauty, that's all."
The time is there, but it bends to fit words, mood and the moment, taking on a life of its own, serving as an invisible muse whose presence animates the proceedings. Perhaps it's safe to say that this is the most "mystic" of albums by a jazz vocalist. Sinatra's mastery of the big-scale album is counterbalanced by Tony Bennett's claim that nothing was more satisfying to him than his duet recordings with Bill Evans and small group recordings with Ralph Sharon. After listening to the evidence, and after reading the especially inspired, detailed and instructive "program" notes by Will Friedwald, I feel all the wiser, despite my possession (in LP and CD formats) of the previous editions. If you don't have this session, by all means this is the one to own. If you have the session in an earlier format, give this one serious consideration nonetheless. It has not only doubled my appreciation of the two performers but offered fresh insights into the mysterious process of communication that can occur only when two brilliant musicians agree on a single priority above all others: the music.
Tony's two sessions with Bill Evans arguably represent the apex of his career and justifiably bring higher prices as used copies than any number of his big production albums (like the "Duets"), the relaxed sessions with his trio (led by pianist Ralph Sharon), or the many "Best of," "Ultimate," or "Essential" anthologies. There are close observers of the Great American Songbook and its primary caretakers who feel that the most inspired, exemplary and significant expressions of this indigenous art form are to be found in the "concept albums" of Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle. Each is thematically and musically organized, resulting in stunning, unified, organic "tone poems," or "suites." To name just three striking examples, there are the swing-themed occasions, like "Songs for Swinging Lovers" (Capitol); the introspective, often gut-wrenching, unflinching and elegiac torch albums (Sinatra called them "wrist-slashers" or "suicide songs") like "Only the Lonely" (Capitol); and finally the Broadway, Rodgers and Hammerstein-inspired, semi-operatic (and dramatic) blockbusters, like "The Concert Sinatra" (Reprise).
I would argue that Tony Bennett's meetings with Bill Evans comprise his equivalent of Sinatra's transformation of a poorly understood popular form into art of the highest order. Now that the smoke has cleared concerning the last 50 years of jazz history, it becomes ever clearer that the music's direction and language have been shaped, above all, by two seminal geniuses: pianist Bill Evans and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane (for the first 50 years, three musicians must be viewed as having a similar, possibly greater influence: Louis Armstrong (perhaps Tony's primary influence), Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington (in whom Tony finds a "spirituality" that many younger listeners identify with Coltrane). And none of the foregoing is meant to take anything away from the undeniable influence of Miles Davis--less as a soloist (though he was much better than many listeners realize) than as a facilitator, standing at the vanguard of every important movement from bebop to fusion and hip-hop.
The point is that just as it's become a no-brainer to identify the greatest recording ever made by vocalist Johnny Hartman because of the presence of John Coltrane ("John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman" continues to win new admirers with each passing year), the presence of Bill Evans lessens the greater difficulty of selecting a comparable outstanding moment in Bennett's far more numerous discography.
It used to annoy me that many listeners familiar with the first of the two giants' meetings were clueless about the second, which may be even slightly stronger in its programmatic and musical elements than the first. Now that oversight has been corrected, and it's about time that after all of these years, conflicts between two different labels do not deprive the discerning listening public from discovering the glowing, singular, inexhaustible life and beauty of both sessions.
If you have the two individual sessions, it may be a tough decision--the "Complete" version has numerous alternate takes that will not necessarily fit the needs or priorities of many listeners (I know quite a few musicians who have come to resent alternate takes and bonus tracks). But just as I found it necessary to order "The Complete Bill Evans Vanguard Sessions" (from 1961, with Scott LaFaro), despite possessing the two LPs and two CDs of the same Sunday afternoon date, I'd recommend the same consideration for this latest complete package of a rare moment, or landmark (make it two), in America music. On the other hand, if you have both Evans/Bennett sessions in their original format and have yet to experience Bill Evans' "The Last Waltz" and "Consecration," the priority has to be given the latter two performances. Be prepared to become absorbed--deeply and lengthily. There's nothing-- on record or in American music--comparable to either box set. (Think Mozart's death-bed "Requiem"--heavy, deep, urgent, equally sublime and tragic, yet affirmative of the creative, unstoppable human spirit--all centered on a dying, depleted human specimen with nothing more than ineffable melodies to sustain him. But the music had to be played--and miraculously it was--if by the narrowest of margins. Putting Tony Bennett (or any vocalist) in the presence of such a musician may be the equivalent of singing with a scintillating Riddle or Mandel orchestration and ensemble--or better. (Sadly, we can only imagine what a Sinatra-Evans meeting might have produced.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
“The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings”, released on CDs by Fantasy Records from US in 2009, is a 2-CD set, containing two previously released...Read more