A newfound Bill Evans recording is always cause for celebration. The jazz pianist master always worked best in the trio format, and throughout his life he relied on this arrangement; his most enduring iteration featured bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell. Evans In England captures a trio performance at the famed Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in 1969, a rare audience recording made by a mysterious French fan.
One interesting fact about Evans’s approach to live performance is that he often focused on a rather limited core set of songs. Thus, anyone familiar with Evans’ releases from the late sixties and early seventies would recognize most of the set. In the liner notes, his former band mates explain that Evans found that the challenge was to offer his audience material they knew and loved yet make the arrangements different enough from performance to performance to keep the listener on their toes. By doing so, he could be both artist andentertainer, making the set a creative exploration for him and his band while giving the audience a fine night of music.
And in spite of the setlist familiarity, Evans In England is indeed a fine night of music. The trio is in a playful mood, especially Gomez, whose bass playing gives Evans’s perennial compositions “Waltz For Debby” and “RE: Person I Knew” a delightful bounce. His take on Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” does justice to the maestro yet Evans makes it his own, as he does on Miles Davis’s “So What,” which originally featured Evans on piano. Standards such as “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” “Stella By Starlight,” and “Come Rain Or Come Shine” are given a distinctive flare, and Evans’ own originals are as good as the standards; the melodies of “Turn Out The Stars” and “Very Early” flutter and fly throughout the club in such a vivid way, it’s not hard to get lost in the moment.
Equally interesting is how Evans In England came to be. The set was recorded on the sly by a devoted fan, a French individual who kept his identity anonymous whilst building up an impressive archive of live performances. With the realization of their forthcoming demise, they wanted to share with the world the rare treat that had given them so much pleasure throughout the years. That such a fantastic and enjoyable performance has now seen the light of day is indeed a gift; judging from the excellent quality of the recording—it’s hard to believe it’s an audience tape—here’s hoping more fine Evans performances from this heretofore unknown source will see the light of day.