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Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of The Gate [3 LP]
Vinyl | LP (12" album, 33 rpm), Live, Box Set
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Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate
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*A newly unearthed discovery of Bill Evans, recorded in Greenwich Village
on October 23, 1968, includes two complete, never before released concerts!*
Bill Evans: piano
Eddie Gomez: bass
Marty Morell: drums
All previously unheard performances. The only Evans recording released from
The Village Gate! Digitally remastered from the original tapes; recorded
and mixed live, providing stellar sound & clarity. Features rare tracks (in
some cases recorded live with the Bill Evans trio for the very first time).
Deluxe insert with essays by Nat Hentoff, Gary Burton, Eddie Gomez, Marty
Morell, George Klabin & Art D Lugoff s son, Raphael D Lugoff.
Includes iconic photos by Tom Copi, Jan Persson, Raymond Ross, Fred Seligo,
and Herb Snitzer. Interesting historical documents includes contracts,
postcards, family photos, and more.
- Limited three-LP Box Set
- 180-gram vinyl pressed on 12 LPs at 45 RPM by Record Technology
- Deluxe hand numbered 13 x13 box by Ross-Ellis.
- Mastered by Bernie Grundman.
- Includes four-panel 12 x 12 insert
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Top Customer Reviews
Blll Evans had, in some respects, more in common with Sonny and Blakey than with a Keith Jarrett who, after the success of "The Kohn Concert," was in a position to select his moments, his instrument, his producers and labels with deliberative, fastidious care. That a Sonny Stitt or a Bill Evans could play so well for so many years should come as a greater surprise than the disappointments that frequently appear in the recorded, prolific (albeit scattered and uneven) discographies of either musician.
If there was ever a hard-working artist who deserved the best production values--in terms of not just audio technology but the considered respect of his peers--it's Bill Evans, arguably the most influential pianist after Bud Powell and, along with seminal giants like John Coltrane, on the short list of most important "musicians"--period. Consequently, it's immensely gratifying to read the enclosed tributes by Nat Hentoff (the "Dean" of jazz critics for many of us who first read his reviews in "Down Beat") along with the thoughtful, provocative portrait of Bill by one of the foremost musician-educators of the past 50 years, Gary Burton.
The fact that the "musical content" of this session may not strike some close followers of Evans' career as unusual or exceptional is, in one sense, all the more reason to acquire the disc without fear of disappointment arising from less than optimal audio representation of the occasion. All three instruments, we are told, are miked extremely close, with the resulting mix reflecting the intimate and personal sound of each instrument. Perhaps so, but I'm having trouble getting my ears to focus on the trio as a tight yet free and democrratic entity. The listener is placed to the right of Bill's piano, in front of bass (heard on the listener's right speaker) and drums (heard quite prominently from the left speaker). Both instruments tend to occupy the foreground, with the piano sounding at times "muted" and at other times unfocused.
In theory, "close-up miking" may make more sense than in practice. First, there are problems with the sounds of individual instruments due to the introductions of acoustic artifacts. Were the human ear placed in the sounding board of the piano, for example, the instrument's overtones would produce an over-saturated, potentially irritating sound, as the tones and overtones soon begin to "bleed" into one another, producing a "sonic smudge" more than an immediately recognizable, natural, warm sound (the fact is, the actual space occupied by the piano is integral with the sound the listener hears and associates with the sound of the instrument). Second, in terms of the "imaging" of the trio as a whole, the drums and bass seem favored in the mix (to my ears) except during sections of straight-ahead 4/4 swing. And here's where I as a listener, highly sensitive to the pitches and time-feel of "walking bass," experience frequent frustration with the present recording. My problem is not necessarily with the engineering but with the style, technique and approach employed increasingly by musicians of this era--a time when electronics and technology (though not as yet digital) was heavily influencing musician's hearing--and their playing (Bill himself would have a flirtation with the Fender Rhodes, employing it on several albums). Bass players became enamored of the new sensitive pick-ups and of string set-ups that permitted them to play not merely amplified tones but "non-decaying" ones. As a result, individual pitches pitches became indistinguishable from one another, smearing together in a manner that produced "walking" bass without any individual "steps"! (I once saw an ornery Sonny Stitt, a surprise guest at a performance by the Max Roach quartet, stop the group within three minutes of the first song and insist that the young (and highly proficient) bassist stop playing altogether because the non-decaying tones from his instrument prevented him from hearing the beat, finding the pulse. -- To this day, I wonder why Sonny at least didn't give the humiliated youngster a chance to turn off his pick-up.)
I used multiple CD players and different equalizer settings along with switching back and forth among various sources of similar material in trying to achieve the most satisfying balance. Without attempting to describe the wildly different representations of the trio's sound, I would simply suggest the listener compare the versions of "Witchcraft" and "Autumn Leaves" on the present recording with Bill's performance of the same tunes on his Riverside session, "A Portrait of Bill Evans" (recorded prior to the 1961 Vanguard sessions but with the same trio of LaFaro and Motian) Portrait in Jazz. The results are so radically different that it's difficult to determine the degree to which the recording techniques per se account for what we hear rather than the musicians themselves . On the present date, the contributions of bass and drums sound aggressive and "busy," as though the instruments' different registers are placing an overload on the mics, resulting in a "clashing" of voices--an intermittently confusing "sonic dissonance" from this listener's perspective. When the trio's performance of Monk's "Round Midnight," I quickly went to another "live" performance by Bill of the same tune--"At Shelly's Manne-Hole" (a 1963 Riverside date recorded after the death of LaFaro). Other listeners will no doubt have responses opposite to mine, but the Riverside representation of the trio, while not sacrificing the frequencies of bass or drums (we even hear the drop of a drum stick), traces the harmonic nuances and dynamic contrasts of the piano with minute and consistent clarity.
The "Top of the Gate" recording at least should provoke thought and discussion about these matters. It demonstrates that with so many of the "freely and collaboratively" improvising ensembles since Bill's Vanguard trio, there's a fine line between what sounds like a creative, productive "conversation" and what strikes the listener as an "argument," with each player determined to have it his way. In fact, on a tune like "Autumn Leaves" the collaborative melodic ideas that we hear on a "Portrait" (extemporaneous "fugues" among Evans, LaFaro and Motian) is constant and consonant--you simply shake your head with disbelief during each playing--the clarity of each voice is unmistakable; the effect of the whole on this listener borders on the ecstatic. By contrast, on the present recording of the tune Bill simply lays out entirely, leaving the field completely open for the bass player to show his wares (I'm surprised I never saw Bill or his drummer do the old swing era antic of leaving the stage during these protracted, and frequent, toccata-like solos or cadenzas ). "Someday My Prince Will Come" and "Turn Out the Stars" invite similar comparisons. The present recording will have done an enormous service if it prompts listeners to follow Bill Evans to his new technique of anticipatory phrasing through displaced rhythms along with the trio selected to execute this latest evolution in his playing, which Bill discusses in a 1979 interview on NPR Marian Mcpartland's Piano Jazz--a telepathic ensemble that, a dozen years after the present recorded session, would represent his "last testament," a culmination if not consummation of ideas originating from his pre-LaFaro musical experiences.
On the present recording the balance of the three instruments on "Turn Out the Stars" is most satisfying--even if Bill's need to pursue the musical idea to its furthest reach would occur eight years later, preserved on the two essential collections--"Consecration" and "The Last Waltz--recorded the week before his death. On both Disc 5 of the first collection and Disc 1 of the 2nd he will submit sublime interpretations of this enduring original tune, each twice the length of the present performance. And he will do much the same on Someday My Prince Will Come, submitting two breathlessly torrid performances of the tune on "Consecration," Disc 3, and "The Last Waltz," Disc 5.
The early dismissals of Bil's trio as "cocktail music," or as music with an effete, airy quality suggestive of the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, is widely known and even briefly alluded to in Hentoff's essay. Anyone familiar with Bill's later music knows better. By the end of his career, Romantic impressionism was counter-balanced by "high Romantic" expressionist art--even stretches of passionate abandon--that Bill seemed to summon from his own Russian heritage. Listen to any of the versions of "Nardis" or of "Someday My Price Will Come" from his recordings made the first week of September 1980. At least the next time someone claims that Bill went out exhibiting the pyrotechnical skills of an Oscar Peterson, you'll know that all bets are off.
[It should be noted that the above impressions are based on listening to the two CDs, not the concurrently released vinyl LP versions. With only a few exceptions--notably "Ellington at Newport '56"--I continue to prefer the sound of analog to digital--and on an Evans masterpiece like "A Portrait in Jazz" or Miles' "Kind of Blue" it's not merely vinyl but the monaural version that represents as truly and "affectively" as possible two of the rarest moments in modern recording. Whether "in spite" of the audio technology of the past half century--or "because" of not being encumbered by all the latest gear--the foregoing are just two examples of recordings that don't merely "preserve" exceptional moments: they recreate them, and make them live--unheard melodies to the majority, perhaps, but not to those of us whose consciousness has been forever altered by their Resonance.]
At 45rpm, there is plenty of that midrange detail and openness which 45rpm masterings are so famous for. Two things keep this from having 5-star sonics: One was that the original analog tapes were digitally mastered with noise removal (such as hiss) software used. The producer of this touted this to me as a great feature, but real high-fidelity enthusiasts know (and who else is buying the 45rpm vinyl version of this) that noise removal software also takes some of the life and top end detail out of the music. Digitally mastering, in spite of certain benefits, takes a bit of life out of a fully analog recording as well. It would have been better that the analog tapes were left alone and mastering done fully analog before being put down to vinyl.
The other was feature is that the original recording was essentially done on the run, without time taken to figure out how to place the microphones to get the best sound. Hence, the recording engineer is altering microphone placement on the fly and for the first several tunes, the balance between instruments is a bit off (and the engineer was placing the microphones up close, so you have extreme left-right placement).
In the end, though, I generally prefer vinyl copies of digital material over digital media playback as long as the vinyl mastering engineer knows what he's doing, and here he does. I have not heard the CDs (though an acquaintance has them and I hope we'll be able to meet up sometime and compare).