Bill Evans: Interplay

The pianist ordered short, interactive solos to avoid 'one guy blowing followed by another guy blowing' and gave Hubbard a chance to chill


This was the first and by a wide margin, the best, of just three quintet sessions Evans recorded as a leader. Orrin Keepnews of Riverside Records tells the story in his book of Evans coming to him and saying he would like to record a quintet album. The producer was under no illusion that the only reason for this change of personnel was for the pianist to get extra money for his drug habit. He was, however, happy to go along with it, thinking Evans might come up with something special. He was not wrong.

Much as he had done with his trio records Evans organised this set with the solos overlapping throughout and the music flowing smoothly as the five players integrated in a collective effort. If this album swings even more compulsively than Evans’ trios, it is down to the lively, yet restrained pulse generated by Heath and Philly Joe. Evans has Hubbard, Hall and his own piano creating smooth, inventive passages with the short solos constantly swapping backwards and forwards and effectively avoiding Evans’ pet hate of “one guy blowing followed by another guy blowing.”

Another bonus here is listening to Hubbard play melodic lines and lyrical passages on muted horn, so different to his high-octane excursions into the stratosphere that occurred on many of his records at the time. The other bonus of this well-remastered issue is the alternate take of I’ll Never Smile Again, where Evans’ sparkling solo surpasses that on the original album release. The slow, pulsating blues Interplay is perhaps the best of six well-constructed selections.

On some tracks Hall solos melodically as a muted Hubbard blows softly alongside him. Then they swap solo roles. The full integration of this quintet is seemingly easily achieved.

Jazz Wax claim this is a 180-gram audiophile pressing, and it certainly sounds clean, bright and natural. By using guitar instead of saxophone and creating a lyrical, melodic atmosphere, Evans came up with a rather special variation of the hardy hard bop format.

You And The Night And The Music; When You Wish Upon A Star; I’ll Never Smile Again; Interplay; You Go to My Head; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; I’ll Never Smile Again (45.26)
Evans (p); Freddie Hubbard (t); Jim Hall (elg); Percy Heath (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). NYC, 16 & 17 July 1962.
Jazz Wax JWR 4608