Bill Evans, Live at Art D’Lugoff’s: Top of the Gate

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 06.15.12 in Reviews
Sublime, thoroughly enjoyable historical recordings

This previously unreleased material was recorded for Columbia University radio station WKCR; the sound balance, done on the fly through microphone placement, attains professional quality by the third track. Of course, there are a lot of Evans concert recordings; when one of the most influential pianists of an era dies young, everything he recorded becomes instantly treasured. The preciousness alone justifies this two-CD package, but it stands just as firmly on its particular merits. Unlike the two Oct. 23, 1968, sets here, the vast majority of Evans’s concert recordings date from the ’70s through 1980, the year of his death. It’s also the earliest documentation of Evans’s longest-lasting trio, with bassist Eddie Gomez and just-joined drummer Marty Morrell, a straightforward and energetic drummer by the standards of Evans trios. That may partly explain the chipper, swinging “My Funny Valentine” here (Evans’s earliest recorded trio version), in place of the stereotypical Evans ethereality. There are still quietly beautiful performances, notably “Emily” and Yesterdays” (two of the three tunes heard twice across the two sets, the other being mercurial renditions of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight”). Most of the songs are standards, but Evans’s own darkly glinting “Turn Out the Stars” closes the first set. Sublime historical recordings, thoroughly enjoyable.