“To me, it was simply, every time he touched the piano, he touched my heart and he played with a sound that was just a gorgeous sound and he was always so expressive in his playing.” That’s the talented bass-player Eddie Gomez talking only three months ago about the legendary pianist and composer Bill Evans (1929-1980). This impromptu eulogy to Evans features in an interview with Gomez - now a sprightly 71 – reproduced in the liner notes.
Along with drummer Jack DeJohnette, Gomez- and mostly he alone on the first of the discs - accompanied Evans on what is a two-CD set recorded in the Black Forest town of Villingen in Germany on June 20, 1968. The mere locating of these so-called `lost’ sessions had something of a whodunnit quality, as recounted in an introductory essay by producer Zev Feldman. Suffice to say that despite plans to release the album years ago, for some reason the tapes lay untouched for 48 years in the possession of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, who recorded the session.
The process didn’t end with the finding of the tapes, as rights to release the previously unreleased two-CD pairing had to be secured from the Bill Evans estate. The necessary rights were sought and obtained from the record company to whom Evans had been signed in 1968. Moreover, terms also had to be agreed with the surviving members of the trio before the package – which includes a 40-page booklet - could be released.
So what we get is a companionably intimate production, featuring a generous helping of standards, from the Leonard Bernstein-authored title track, which is given a languid, wistul treatment, to You Go To My Head to I’ll Remember April and My Funny Valentine.
That’s just four from the eleven tracks on disc one, supplemented by a further ten on disc two. Two of Evans' own compositions feature and a couple of Dory and André Previn numbers too. (Remember Dory Previn? Now that's going back.)
Evans is on top form on the studio Steinway, while his accompanists are models of restraint and tact. Gomez occasionally breaks loose with a solo run but it's never too much of a sweat - hear the way the solo trails away as Evans nudges back in on My Funny Valentine, as though to let us know who’s the boss. But ever so gently.