Bill Evans Trio: Portrait In Jazz

The first album by the seminal Bill Evans trio is reissued in a vinyl and CD set with extensive bonus tracks


This was Evans’ third LP as a leader on records and the first with what became his classic trio. At the 1959 session the three players were already well integrated and on the way to the level of the three-way collective improvisation that culminated in the sterling performances at the Village Vanguard in 1961.

All the tracks here demonstrate relaxed, easy swing as Evans glides lyrically through seven standards and two of his own originals although Blue In Green is often part credited to Miles Davis. LaFaro’s solos spring organically out of the ensemble sound as soon as Evans concludes a solo and his elastic lines are full of invention. Evans is on top form all through, his touch light and melodic, seldom firming up even on the uptempo selections.

The light, haunting melody of Blue In Green is familiar enough now to most jazz enthusiasts but in 1959 it was something to marvel at. The Evans trio set new standards for inventive piano, bass, drum combinations and their influence on musicians is still powerful to this day. These are three-way musical combinations and not what Evans once dismissed as “one guy blowing followed by another guy blowing”.

This is a good buy for anybody with a worn-out vintage vinyl or a tired-sounding early CD [do CDs ever tire, being digital? – Ed] as it has very good sound on the vinyl record and tucked into the jacket is a CD with the full programme and six bonus tracks. The LP also offers one extra selection not on the original issue. The CD offers two alternate takes of Blue In Green by the trio plus the Miles Davis Quintet version with Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. Four tracks from a radio transcription from Birdland a year later have curiously muddy sound and the trio appears uncharacteristically uninspired. Maybe it was just a bad day at the club. In any event these are extras, so can’t complain. Comparison with the studio sound and quality of playing is, however, illuminating. Overall, this is a good way to acquire a classic recording.

(1) Come Rain Or Come Shine; Autumn Leaves; Witchcraft; When I Fall In Love; Peri’s Scope; What Is This Thing Called Love; Spring Is Here; Someday My Prince Will Come; Blue In Green Blue In Green (2) Blue In Green (3) Come Rain Or Come Shine; Nardis; Blue In Green; Autumn Leaves (duration 78.24, including bonus CD material)
(1) Evans (p); Scott LaFaro (b); Paul Motion (d). NYC, 28 December 1959.
(2) Evans (p); Miles Davis (t); John Coltrane (ts); Paul Chambers (b); Jimmy Cobb (d). NYC, 2 March 1959.
(3) as (1) Birdland, NYC, 30 April 1960.
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