Bill Evans Trio
On A Monday Night
Jazz pianist Bill Evans worked best in a trio; with a bassist and drummer, he was able to compose evocative, beautiful melodies that were both understated and deceptively complex; one could listen to any number of his recordings and be impressed with their cool, gentle melodies, without realizing that he was in fact presenting the listener with extremely complex compositions. Furthermore, the stripped-down lineup meant that Evans could perform his material live. His albums Sunday At The Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby are not only two of his most beloved releases, but are also considered to be two of the best jazz recordings of all time.
On A Monday Evening constitutes a rare, recently discovered live recording from his 1976 tour with his trio featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund. Recorded in November in Madison, Wisconsin, On A Monday Evening document Evans during a very dark period of his life. He had been battling drug addiction for years, and his personal life had been filled with tragedy, and for all their gentleness, the eight songs featured here have a very subtle restlessness. The classic “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Up With The Lark” feel tense, jittery, while “Sugar Plum”—which seems to start mid-recording—is fidgety and unsteady, if not a little rushed. But not all of the set feels that way; the ten minute take of “All Of You” is upbeat and pleasant, with Evans on firm footing and offering a playful, jaunty melody alongside some superb drumming, while concluding “Some Other Time” is simply gorgeous. Never mind that the set feels a bit truncated—perhaps these were the only suitable recordings, or perhaps they’re all that got recorded—this is still prime Bill Evans.
Beauty in simplicity was Evans’ principle, and On A Monday Evening succeeded in that. Though there’s an off-ness to some of the performances–one perhaps enhanced by the knowledge of where Evans’ life was heading–Evans and company never strayed from that principle, and this is a fine performance from a master musician in the last years of his life.