Bill Evans: Easy To Love 

Producer Orrin Keepnews's dismissal of the pianist's 1962 solos for being artistically and temporally inconsistent now seems hasty

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This is by turns a curious, uneven but also rewarding compilation of early Evans recordings for the Riverside label, produced by Orrin Keepnews. The two performances of No Cover, No Minimum were featured on his debut album New Jazz Conceptions.

If Keepnews’ memory serves him correctly, Evans was initially reluctant to make his first appearance as leader: “It took some time for us to convince him that he was ready to record (which is decidedly the reverse of the usual situation).” He also recalled that the album received a lukewarm critical reception, and by the end of 1957 total sales “barely reached 800 copies!” No Cover, No Minimum (either at 8.08 or 7.31 minutes) receives pedestrian treatment, a mixture of standard blues clichés.

The remaining five tracks, made six years later, feature Evans as solo pianist, and are of more than passing interest, particularly because they were not released until the late 1970s. The not always reliable Keepnews explains that after agreeing to cut a solo album, Bill produced four single-takes “of widely varying length and intensity”, and the project was abandoned.

In fact, he fashioned moving interpretations of Some Other Time, Easy To Love and the Brubeck composition In Your Own Sweet Way. The longest track (at over 10 minutes) is an introspective and haunting interpretation of the well-known song Danny Boy (credited to Frederick Edward Weatherly).

On the verge of artistic and commercial success, Evans was still recovering from the devastating loss of his bassist Scott LaFaro in a car accident on 6 July 1961. Like Someone In Love and In Your Own Sweet Way convey a sombre and reflective mood, and it’s easy to believe that these poignant performances were affected by LaFaro’s death. They certainly deserve to be rediscovered by present-day Evans enthusiasts. This hi fi Waxtime LP is the place to start.

Discography
(1) No Cover, No Minimum; Some Other Time; Easy To Love; (1) bonus track: No Cover, No Minimum; (2) Danny Boy; Like Someone In Love; In Your Own Sweet Way (45.25)
(1) Evans (p); Teddy Kotick (b); Paul Motian (d). New York, 27 September 1956. (2) Evans (p). New York, 15 December 1958, 10 April 1962.
Waxtime In Color 950721